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June 19, 2013     Hays Free Press
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GIVING BACK Former abuse victim helps others through HEARTeam. - Page 16 Hays Free Press June 19, 2013 11 Page 3B BY KIM HILSENBECK kim@haysfreepress.com An eight-week study on absentee- ism in Hays CISD in the early spring showed that acute illness, including fever, ear aches, vomiting and cold/flu, accounted for half of all reported ab- sences in the district during the study period. The study, conducted by E3Alliance (E3), a Central Texas nonprofit dedi- cated to more data-driven efficiency in public education as a means to en- sure academic success, in conjunction with Children's Optimal Health (COH), was the first of its kind in the nation, according to E3's Director of Research AmyWiseman. She, along with Mohan Rao, spatial data analyst at COH, presented a sum- mary of the findings on June 11 at the Missing School Matters Attendance Summit in Austin. Chronic illness and family emergen- cies are the next highest reasons for missing school at five and four percent, respectively. Dental issues and skip- ping school were three percent each. The top 10 reasons for missing school accounted for 72 percent of re- ported absences. Prior to the study, E3 showed data indicating that more than half of Cen- tral Texas students miss six or more days per school year, putting them in the at-risk category for chronic absen- teeism. Those students account for 85 percent of all absences. More than 200 area education, com- munity and business leaders in at- tendance at the summit also learned that at-risk students - those who are chronically absent and economically disadvantaged, according to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) - have more than their share of absences for mul- tiple reasons. In fact, Wiseman said 42 percent of students in the study area are considered at-risk and those stu- dents accounted for 62 percent of all absences recorded. With public school funding so intri- cately tied to attendance rather than enrollment, schools across the state need to increase the number of stu- dents who show up each day - called Weighted Average DailyAttendance, or WAD& Districts lose money for every day a student is absent. Hays CISD re- ceives $30 per day for each day of at- tendance, according to Carter Scherff, assistant superintendent. And in an economic climate where every penny counts, districts receiving fewer pen- nies when students stay home for un- excused reasons is a problem. Getting students to attend just three more days a year can bring in signifi- cant money for a school district. Study Padicipa Four Hays GISD schools- two etementarvschools, Kyle and Fuerrtes~ a!ortg wlthGhapa:Middle School and Lehman High School; comprised the study base along with four schools in the Pflugerville ISD. The schoo s were chosen for the During the research phase, Hays CISD recorded 4,259 absences. ~ere.wem 4 ...... ~ .... ,t20 students m the dmtret s study data set. UnexCused absences include vacations; missing the hue and taking care Of another fami~ member, Interim Superintendent Carter pecially notable at the high school se- Scherff told the Hays Free Press last fall nior level. that Hays CISD could bring in about Chronic absenteeism, defined as $750,000 in additional state revenue students who are not in school more if attendance rates increased just one often than the average number of ab- percent, sences at a particular campus, is also a According to an E3 analysis of PEIMS problem. data from the UT Education Research However, Wiseman was quick to Center, Central Texas has more ab- note that the absenteeism research in- sences than Texas overall, on average, tended to capture data on all absences, at every grade. The comparison is es- not just chronic episodes or students from low-income families. W]seman developed the absentee- ism study methodology and analyzed the results. The goal of the research, she said, was to help school districts decide what services and support are needed for families whose children are chronically absent from school. "We have data on who is absent and when," she said. "But we were missing the why." It was that elusive "why" that drove the research. Wiseman said the study also aimed to determine if students who miss school for chronic illness, including diabetes, asthma depression, anxiety and dental problems, receive medical treatment for those conditions. "And if not, we wanted to know why not," Wiseman said. Wh~le Hays CISD campuses already request data on the reason for a missed day, the study goal was to gather de- tailed information about each absence, which in some cases was more detail than families normally provide. Wiseman's data indicates that among the poorest students, regardless of eth- nicity or race - with the exception of Asian students - poverty leads to more absences. Low-income students miss up to three weeks of school on average. Other findings in the study include the fact that chronic absenteeism is worse in high school than primary or middle school and that chronically ab- sent students account for most chron- ic illness and mental health absences. Overall, a small number of chronically absent students accounted for most of the reported absences in the two school districts Wiseman studied. She noted that the data can be extrapolated to the larger Central Texas area since the student population demographics in Hays CISD and Pflugerville ISD closely mirror those in the entire region. Wiseman also provided data, though not from this study, showing that grad- uation rates for low-income students in Central Texas are consistently lower than the statewide average. Maps from COH, the firm that pro- vided the Hays CISD obesity study maps in 2012, revealed a concentra- tion of high absenteeism among stu- dents who live just east of Interstate 35 in Kyle between FM 150 and FM 1626/ Kyle Parkway. "This study not only provides ac- tionable information for particular neighborhoods and the Central Texas region as a whole, but is also a seminal pilot study for similar efforts across the country," said Susan Dawson, E3 Alli- ance president and executive director. An example of additional services may include a low or no-cost health care facility for low-income families, according to Wiseman. 9 BY KIM HILSENBECK kim@haysfreepress.com Collecting data on students at Hays CISD recently got easier with the roilout of a new software program called TSDS - which stands for Texas Student Data System, a statewide system for collecting and reporting education data for publicly funded schools in Texas. The need for a new system stemmed from Texas school districts and charter schools spending significant time and an estimated $323 million a year, statewide, to report data to the Texas Education Agency (TEA). Complaints that the data was not timely or provided in a useful fashion surfaced regularly as well. In addition, under the old system, data rarely made it to the educators best positioned to improve student achievement. Several Hays CISD campuses played the role of guinea pig this past school year, implementing the TSDS program to test it and report back to The new TSDS offers an easier way to collect and manage PEIMS data, which many teachers and administrators say is disjointed and clunky. TEA, as well as the Hays CISD central instrumental in rolling out TSDS administration, in the district as part of TEA's pilot Replacing and expanding on the study. She said the schools still collect existinglegacysystem, calledthePublic PEIMS information, but now in new Education Information Management software. System (PEIMS), the new TSDS offers "TSDS aggregates all the PEIMS an easier way to collect and manage data so the teacher gets the full picture PEIMS data, which many teachers ofwhat's going on with that child," she and administrators say is disjointed said. and clunky. Richmond said one current The new TSDS system aggregates software, Eduphoria, tracks student data into what's called a dashboard, assessments, including those in giving educators a more complete, CSCOPE, as well as any at the state or and faster, view of a student's data. local level. Brenda Richmond, MIS With TSDS, those scores are now (Management Information Systems) also included on the dashboard profile assistant director at Hays CISD, was for each student. "It shows all tests, how each kid did on each one, which teacher, and that all ties in with demographics and discipline," she said. It sounds a lot like disparate sources of data are now all in one spot. Richmond agreed. "That's the beauty of it," she said. "It opens up for teachers the ability to see that student's information. In the past, they have never been able to have that access." WithTSDS, Richmond said a teacher gets a full picture of everything about a student, allowing th em to react and respond by addressing that student's specific issues. What is the bottom line benefit of TSDS? According to Richmond, there are two pieces to this equation. "It's the PEIMS replacement for reporting - we've been using PEIMS for 25 years; it's antiquated, but the real benefit is for the teachers." TEA officials say it saves schools time and money, while empowering educators with more valuable data. STAFF REPORT Texas high school students will no longer be required to take 15 end-of-course STAAR tests, thanks to Gov. Rick Perry who formally signed HB 5 by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen). The bill reduces the number of required tests to five. It also creates new options for meeting graduation requirements, with emphasis on career interests. HB 5 addresses excessive testing and time devoted to testing in high school. It also limits state end-of-course tests to Algebra I, Biology, English I, English II, and U.S. History. The English I and English II tests will assess both reading and writing. Under the new bill, districts have the option to administer post-secondary readiness tests for diagnostic purposes in Algebra II and English III, but passing those exams is not required for graduation, nor will the exams count hi state accountability ratings. The also bill removes the requirement that a student's performance on end-of-course exams must count for 15 percent of the student's final grade in each course tested. The state accountability system under HB 5 will use a new A-to-F grading system for school districts but will retain the existing ratings of exemplary, recognized, academically acceptable, and academically unacceptable for campuses. HB 5 somewhat counterbalances the simplistic use of the A-to-F labels for districts by adding new accountability ratings for community and student engagement and for financial performance. Ratings in these two new categories will be reported alongside academic ratings, and the academic ratings must use indicators based on other factors in addition to standardized state assessments. However, the extent of reliance on standardized state tests still is left up to the commissioner of education, and Commissioner MichaelWdliams already has come out with a new set of academic-performance measures that rely chiefly on state test scores to gauge proficiency, growth, college and career readiness and the closing of achievement gaps. In addition, under an amendment to HB 5 by Rep. Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio), no more than two district- required benchmark tests can be administered to prepare a student for the corresponding state achievement test. PHOTO BYJIMCULLEN Secretary retires after 39 years After 39 years with Hays CISD, Lupe Torres, the Buda Elementary School secretary, decided to hang up her hat. At a recent reception in her hon- or, Torres received a big hug from Bob Presley who wished her well. ADWARE SPYWARE On-Site Removal (requires broadband internet access) Norton Internet Security and Anti-Virus 2010 Mfr. 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