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Palmer Middle School students soar on achievement test

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DANNY IVISON
Ellis County Press
PALMER - Palmer Middle School Principal Brad Burns praised his students at the eighth grade awards ceremony May 26 for averaging ninety percent on the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills test this spring. The school scored 90 percent, 10 points higher than the average for the state.

'I'm proud of our students,' Burns said, 'They put in a lot of hard work to achieve these results.'

'I want to thank the students, faculty and parents for this achievement,' he said.

Nearly 1.9 million students took the TAAS across the state. The tests measure math and reading skills for grades 3 through 8 and grade ten. A writing test is added for grades 4 and 8, and eighth graders also are tested in science and social studies.

Texas students hit a milestone this spring as four out of five passed the state's academic skills test - the first time the 80 percent mark has been reached in the exam's 10-year history.

Last year, 78 percent of all students passed.

Black students had the biggest gains of any ethnic group. For example, 74 percent of black fifth-graders passed - up 6 percentage points for a year ago.

State Education Commissioner Jim Nelson said that Texas students, teachers and parents could be proud of the results. He also said the performance is a testament to the strong instruction and learning that is going on in Texas schools.

Nelson said he was most encouraged by the scores of minorities, particularly black students. He noted that in the last seven years, the achievement gap between minority and white students on the TAAS has been reduced by about a third.

Asked during a news conference whether Texas schools are spending too much time drilling students for the TAAS, Mr. Nelson said he was not concerned.

'I don't think you ought to spend all your time doing drills for the TAAS, and I don't encourage people to do that,' he said.

'If teachers teach the curriculum, and they teach it well, their youngsters will do well on these assessments.'

The improved test scores for Texas students brought praise from Gov. George Bush also. 'Students, teachers, parents and local school officials deserve the credit for the continuing improvement in test scores for students for all walks of life,' he said.

This year marks the first year that the TAAS test was based completely on the new curriculum standards adopted by the State Board of Education in 1997. Those standards modernized the curriculum and made it more rigorous.

The test scores will be used by the state in rating the performance of all school districts and campuses for the 1999-2000 school year. Those ratings will be issued this summer.

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