‘We didn’t do well’: Houston ISD superintendent breaks down STAAR test results

HOUSTON – The STAAR test results were released for elementary and middle school students in the Houston Independent School District Thursday, and according to Superintendent Mike Miles, “We didn’t do well.”

Results revealed that students’ reading scores dropped at every grade level, except the sixth grade.

In a news conference Thursday, Miles broke down the results, saying that nationally, 32% of fourth graders are reading at the appropriate grade level and at 26% in larger Texas cities. In HISD, 19% of fourth graders are reading at their grade level, Miles said.

Miles also noted that eighth grade students’ scores were similar.

“So our first problem as a nation, but also as a district is that we have low proficiency in our main, our core subjects,” Miles said.

The superintendent said HISD and the nation have been unsuccessful in increasing those low percentages for some time.

“If you look at the screen, you’ll see that we’ve improved one percentage point in 19 years in reading, fourth-grade reading. That’s the percentage of students who are reading at that grade level,” he said. “In math, we went down at two percentage points in 19 years. So that’s problem number two, an inability to change it. Even if you look at eighth grade reading, you noticed that we improved four points in 19 years, so that’s not cause for celebration. Yes, there’s improvement but that is so slow.”

Achievement Gap

Miles said another problem is the achievement gap between students based on their ethnicities.

“You can see, whether you’re talking about NAEP, which is the nation’s report card, or the STAAR exam, our achievement gap, the gap between how well our white students do and our Black students, that’s the achievement gap, or between what our white students do and our Hispanic students, when you see that on this graph for Houston ISD fourth-grade reading, 60% of our white students are reading at grade level and only 11% of our Black students. That’s too large a gap and math is worse,” Miles said.

He mentioned that for Hispanic students, the achievement gap for math scores was 52% behind white students, which is “way too large and has been large for a long, long time.”

According to Miles, “We have a lot of work to do.”

Miles said factors like the exponential growth of artificial intelligence will make matters worse for “unskilled laborers” and many middle-skilled jobs will be cut as a result, but more advanced jobs will be created that require a higher skillset.

“There’s a symbiotic relationship between the gig economy and the growth of A.I.,” Miles said. “But I think one thing you can say for sure is that this future is not stopping.”

Miles said the district plans on closing the achievement gap while preparing students for the future with the New Education System schools, however, he doesn’t plan on leaving the other campuses out. He wants to focus on quality instruction by having more teacher apprentices and learning coaches instead of substitutes every day. He also wants to increase salaries in order to hire more skilled educators.

“And not that substitutes don’t do the job that they’re paid to do. But we have to have fewer subs in the building and more teacher apprentices in the building,” Miles said.

The superintendent noted that language comprehension is something the district can improve on.

“Because still in the year 2035, reading is an important skill. We will continue dual language education,” he said. “We know that having two languages is a lot better, (you’re) infinitely more employable if you can speak two languages rather than one.”

Miles said that since reorganizing, available positions at HISD’s central office went from 10,204 to 7,857. Six-hundred and seventy-two people reportedly lost their positions. According to the superintendent, most of those people have been placed in other positions across the district.


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