New projections from Fort Worth ISD show a drop in the percentage of third-graders meeting grade level on the upcoming state standardized reading test.
Administrators told the school board Feb. 28 that 19% of third-grade students would meet grade level on the reading exam of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR. In the fall, officials estimated 25% of third-graders would meet grade level.
Fort Worth ISD wants 43% of third-graders to meet grade level on this year’s reading STAAR. In 2022, 37% of third-grade students met grade level on the reading test — a number that beat previous estimates.
Several school board members expressed concern about the projected drop and the 24 percentage-point gap between the estimates and the district’s goal.
‘Breaks my heart’
Trustee Wallace Bridges examined the literacy data administrators presented to the school board. Children who can’t read check out mentally as they are promoted to higher grade levels because the school district is not providing enough support for them, he said.
“The biggest concern that parents have in the community, especially the community I live in, is why can’t we teach our kids how to read? When we look at that, it breaks my heart,” Bridges said.
Bridges brought up a word he hears repeatedly from administrators: intentionality. They have used that word to describe how the district is working to build up students’ reading skills, particularly among demographic groups.
“I keep hearing that word, I’m just not seeing that level of intentionality with some of these subgroups,” Bridges said. “I guarantee you that if we pulled out the subgroups when it comes to African American boys, it wouldn’t be pretty. “
The chronic low reading scores have attracted charter schools to Fort Worth, Bridges said.
New goals coming
Trustee Camille Rodriguez and Bridges questioned the district’s goals. A previous iteration of the school board set the goals, Superintendent Angélica Ramsey said.
However, the school board and Ramsey will re-examine the goals during a March 7 retreat, the superintendent said.
Together, they will add new goals targeted at specific student groups, Ramsey said.
“If everything is a priority, nothing is,” she said.
A learning curve
Chief Academic Officer Marcey Sorensen described the numbers presented to trustees as not acceptable.
She attributed part of the drop to the rollout of a new reading curriculum that comes with a learning curve for teachers and principals. As a system, Fort Worth ISD is not supporting teachers and principals enough during this shift, Sorensen said.
“Our students are losing in the short term, but we know that we made good decisions in terms of what we are investing in in the long term,” Sorensen said. “These are returns of investment that we will not see immediately, and I know that doesn’t give the board comfort today.”
Students are expected to take the STAAR exams in May.
Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.