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Parent group calls for moratorium on STAAR tests

Local News, Notes and Events
 Posted by WhosPlayin on 2016/5/5 23:50:00 (2921 reads)

Open in new windowBy STEVE SOUTHWELL

Fallout continues over the state's STAAR standardized testing system, its numerous high-profile failings in recent months, and its high-stakes consequences for Texas school districts.

Today, Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment (TAMSA), the group legislators have referred to as "Mothers against drunk testing" issued a press release calling for a statewide moratorium on any further use of the testing.

In 2015, TAMSA was instrumental in getting Texas legislators to pass House Bill 5, which reduced the number of required STAAR tests for Texas students from 15 to 5.

This call for a moratorium comes on the heels of concerns by districts like Lewisville ISD, which is fighting the Texas Education Agency over close to $50,000 the district will need to spend to have tests regraded after discovering a 20% error rate in a sample of tests it recently sent to have regraded. Students with high scores on one written section of the test had a disproportionately high number of zero scores on a short-answer portion of the English I and English II STAAR tests.

"(TAMSA) finds that the current standardized testing system has so many faults that it cannot be remedied at this time," begins the release. "TAMSA calls for a statewide moratorium on all standardized student testing."

The group goes on to cite Lewisville's grading problems, the use by the testing vendor ETS of uncertified graders, a letter from 50 Houston-area superintendents listing numerous complaints, computer glitches, and a laundry list of other issues the group has with STAAR.

The group is asking the state to change its paradigm, which it says uses the tests as the sole or main criteria in evaluating student and teacher performance, as well as school accountability.

"The current testing regime is not working, is harming students, is costly, and lacks a modicum of common sense," wrote TAMSA Board President, Dr. Theresa Trevino. "The time to stop is now.”

Read the TAMSA release...

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Residents hold 12-hour vigil at city hall for National Day of Prayer

Local News, Notes and Events
Posted by WhosPlayin on 2016/5/5 21:42:44 (2330 reads)

Open in new window
Participants in the National Day of Prayer prayed in front of Lewisville City Hall Thursday. Left to right: Gail Robison, Deniese Sheppard, and Peggy Boyd (Photo by Steve Southwell)


From 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, someone will be at the flag poles in front of Lewisville City Hall, praying for our city.

Deniese Sheppard took the day off from work to be at City Hall at 6 a.m. as part of the National Day of Prayer. An annual observance begun in 1952 by a joint resolution of Congress, and signed by President Harry Truman, continues in Lewisville.

Sheppard is no stranger to prayer vigils, having co-organized the Vigil Against Violence for the past two years with The Lewisville Texan Journal.

A recent graduate of the Lewisville Citizens' University, Sheppard credits that experience with her desire to take prayer once again to the steps of city hall, and direct her prayer efforts towards a positive direction for the city and its leaders.

"If we use prayer in the right way, we could see major things happen," said Sheppard. "I have no doubt that things are changing here due to prayer," she added.

Other community and religious leaders had stopped by at various points throughout the day, and Sheppard said she expected more after 5 p.m. According to Sheppard, participants from The Servant House, and Lewisville Bible Church had also been by.

Gail Robison, from Northview Baptist was there in a shady spot by the well house praying with Sheppard mid-afternoon when we showed up. Perhaps God is smiling, because you couldn't ask for a prettier day. "I just like being out," said Sheppard.

The group welcomes any and all to come by and pray with them. They will be there until 6 p.m.

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Lewisville Area Chamber endorses police and fire district propositions

Local News, Notes and Events
Posted by LewisvilleTexan on 2016/5/5 15:53:21 (2307 reads)

Open in new windowOpen in new windowVia Ray Hernandez, president of the Lewisville Area Chamber of Commerce:

The Lewisville Area Chamber of Commerce supports the reauthorization of the Crime Control District and Fire Prevention District on the May 7, 2016 ballot, and urges Lewisville residents to vote in favor of both propositions. Communities, like the greater Lewisville area, are most prosperous when they feel safe and their property is protected. Since the current Crime Control District and Fire Prevention District was approved by voters in 2011, the associated sales and use tax revenues over the past five years provided the following enhancements to the safety and protection of life and property in the City of Lewisville:

The Fire Prevention District has funded the purchase of a sixth ambulance, adding nine firefighters to staff the ambulance, remodeling Fire House #6 and making improvements to three other stations, technology upgrades, and increasing professional staff dedicated to emergency management operations.

The Crime Control District has funded 31 new positions including patrol officers, dispatchers, jailers, evidence technicians and support specialists. Vehicles also were purchased for some of the new positions.

Successful reauthorization of the Crime Control and Fire Prevention Districts for an additional 20 years would include the potential future uses:

The design and construction of the new Fire House #8 in east Lewisville, purchase of a second ladder truck, and the hiring 18 additional firefighters to staff the new station and vehicle.

Maintaining the 31 new police department positions added during the initial authorization of the Crime Control District, along with other technology and equipment purchases.

“Reauthorization will ensure our community continues to thrive,” says Ray Hernandez, Lewisville Area Chamber President. “We need Lewisville residents to voice their opinion at the polls.” Election Day is Saturday, May 7.

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Property tax appraisals delivered, home values up again

Local News, Notes and Events
Posted by WhosPlayin on 2016/5/4 13:40:00 (3126 reads)

Open in new windowBy STEVE SOUTHWELL

Lewisville homeowners have begun to receive their annual property tax appraisals in the mail. For some, the increase in value over last year may be slight; for others, it could be fairly substantial. The final average Lewisville single-family homestead had a taxable value last year of $173,988. Preliminary values this year put that at $198,763— a $24,775 or 14.2 percent increase over last year’s final values. The increase is driven primarily by homesite (land) values, which jumped 19 percent.

The overall preliminary taxable value for Lewisville, including residential real property, business real property, and business personal property comes in at $9.8 billion. That figure is a $1.7 billion increase over last year’s certified rolls, and is driven primarily by a $1.4 billion overall increase in commercial property values.

Although commercial values do appear to have taken a big leap, it’s worth noting that due to the way that state law is written, those commercial values drop considerably due to appeals and protests. Last year, the preliminary commercial values showed an initial $1.2 billion increase, but by the time appeals and protests were completed, and the rolls were certified, that increase had dropped to just $447 million.

By contrast, preliminary home values are much closer to the final certified values, since many homeowners do not protest, and homeowners do not have the same favors written into state law. Last year, preliminary home values for Lewisville showed a $311 million increase, while certified values came in very close to that with a $280 million increase.

What it means for homeowners
Home value increases are driven by a hot real estate market again this year. Real estate brokers often report that homes are selling within hours of listing, and many times selling for over the asking price.

The appraisal notice that homeowners receive shows a projected tax amount that uses the previous year’s tax rates, but the taxing entities (city, school district, and county) typically do not set their rates until late August. It is always possible for a city or the county to reduce its tax rate to a degree to offset any actual increase

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City Council passes resolution defending and supporting Lewisville ISD’s STAAR fight

Lewisville ISD Notes
Posted by WhosPlayin on 2016/5/3 4:30:00 (3090 reads)

Open in new windowOpen in new windowBy STEVE SOUTHWELL

The Lewisville City Council unanimously passed a resolution Monday night supporting the Lewisville Independent School District, in its efforts to get reimbursed for expenses to re-score incorrectly scored STAAR tests.

As The Lewisville Texan Journal previously reported, the district discovered discrepancies when it received results of the December 2015 STAAR end-of-course exams in English I and II— two of the five EOC exams that students have to pass in order to graduate high school.

Numerous students were found to have been scored with zeroes in the short-answer portion of the test, even though they had high scores on essay questions. When 160 exams were sent back for re-scoring at the district’s expense, 20 percent of them came back with improved grades.

The school board approved up to $48,250 to pay for rescoring of more exams, but the district contends that because the scores were not reliable, that the state or ETS, the scoring contractor, should pay for the rescoring. A letter from TEA to the district late last week denied relief for the district.

Lewisville Councilman TJ Gilmore requested that the resolution be added to the agenda Monday night.

“The testing regime and the failure to effectively fund our public schools both continue to damage communities,” said Gilmore.

“Unless we stand up and support schools as a city, the Legislature may continue to think this is just a schools problem. It's not. it's a community problem.”

LISD Assistant Superintendent Dr. Beth Brockman and school board member Kronda Thimesch both spoke to the council in favor of the resolution.

“We appreciate your support and value Lewisville as a trusted partner,” said Brockman.

Thimesch also provided LTJ with this remark:

"LISD is like the canary in the tunnel. We are the first out of a handful of districts who tests earlier because of our accelerated block. We appreciate this resolution on behalf of our LISD students because there may very well be districts across the state in the same predicament after they get their results. Having the Lewisville City Council partner with us makes a difference for our community."

STAAR critics have expressed concern that what happened to LISD might be an early indicator of a problem that could be widespread later this year when spring results are announced.

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