Looking at school data

The Greenville Independent School District Board of Trustees took another long hard look at school data at its meeting Tuesday.

The Greenville Independent School District Board of Trustees took another long hard look at school data at its meeting Tuesday.

The information was presented by five graduate students in Texas Tech University’s principals fellows program who are currently working through a 15-month residency in GISD and collecting data ranging from student and teacher demographics to how students’ grades on their nine-weeks tests compare to their scores on the STAAR test.

“This won’t be my first time seeing this presentation,” GISD Superintendent Dr. Demetrus Liggins said. “The first time I saw the data it was a kick in the gut, but it’s helping us identify possible systemic issues.”

The first set of data that the board looked at dealt with student demographics in various academic “subgroups.”

When looking at the numbers for 2017-18, the academic subgroup with the largest disparity between student ethnicities was gifted and talented. While students identified as gifted and talented made up just over 9 percent of the total student population, about 62 percent of them were white, approximately 33 percent were Hispanic and slightly less than 5 percent were African-American.

Meanwhile, the academic subpopulation with the largest difference between genders was special education. In 2017-18, about 11.5 percent of the students in the district were receiving special education services, and about 69 percent of them were males while around 31 percent were females.

The information on student demographics was presented by Amanda Lowe, who reminded the board members that the purpose of the research was “not to diagnose, but just to collect data.”

Another set of data that the board looked at had to do with instances of discipline referrals.

In 2018-19, males made up about 76 percent of those receiving discipline referrals while females made up 24 percent.

The biggest disparity in discipline referrals, though, was between economically disadvantaged students (who made up 69 percent of the total student population that year) and those in other subgroups.

About 86 percent of the students who received discipline referrals in 2018-19 were classified as economically disadvantaged.

The graduate students in the principal fellows program also gave numbers for teacher demographics.

The numbers they shared showed that, in 2017-18, about 81 percent of the teachers in the district were white, while just over 8 percent were Hispanic and about 7 percent were African-American. In 2018-19, the ethnic breakdown of the faculty showed more diversity, with about 66 percent being white, while the the number of Hispanic teachers grew to 19 percent and African-American teachers to about 13 percent.

“Increasing the percentage of teachers of color in classrooms is connected directly to closing the achievement gap,” Matthew Hanson said as he quoted the National Education Association during his presentation about discipline referrals and teacher demographics.

In their presentation, the principal fellows also compared students’ grades on their nine-weeks tests to their scores on the STAAR test.

What surprised many of the board members was that, for the most part, students performed better on the STAAR reading and math tests than they did on any of their nine-weeks tests in those subjects.

The nine-weeks test/STAAR comparison was presented by Drew Austin. He explained that one of the reasons why the grades on the STAAR test are often better than the previous major exams was because of the healthy dose of review the students get in the weeks leading into the STAAR test.

Travis Hairgrove is a news reporter and features writer at the Herald-Banner and covers city government for many municipalities in Hunt County. To reach him outside of business hours, email THairgroveReporter@gmail.com.

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