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East Texas high schools' STAAR scores come in higher for history, lower for English

Pine Tree ISD Superintendent Steve Clugston said he believes teachers are the reason State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness end-of-course results are generally high for Longview-area schools.

“You got to get your kids inspired to want to put in the work it takes to get there,” Clugston said. “That comes from the teacher building a great relationship with the kid and that kid to want to give them their best.”

Preliminary results from algebra 1, English 1 and 2, biology and U.S. history tests administered at the high school level show area students overall fared well in U.S. history and struggled the most on the English exams.

According to the Texas Education Agency, the scores are broken down into performance categories of “approaches grade level,” “meets grade level” and “masters grade level.”

Approaches grade level means the student is likely to succeed in the next grade up with academic intervention. Meets grade level indicates the student is highly likely to succeed in the next grade level, but could still need some short-term intervention. Masters grade level means the student is expected to succeed in the next grade with little to no intervention.

When looking at how a school performed overall on an exam, students’ scores are counted from top to bottom, which means an overall score will not total 100 percent.

For example, on the U.S. history exam, Pine Tree High School students scored 94 percent at approaches grade level, 73 percent at meets grade level and 39 percent at masters grade level.

That means the 39 percent of students who mastered the test also are counted among the 94 percent who scored approaches grade level and the 73 percent who scored meets grade level.

That also means the 73 percent of students who scored at meets grade level are counted among the 94 percent who scored approaches grade level.

The TEA has not released official statewide results from the tests.

Preliminary results were not available from Hallsville ISD.

Longview High School and Early Graduation High School

Longview High School saw its highest results in the subject of U.S. history, with 95 percent scoring approaches grade level, 73 percent scoring meets grade level and 40 percent scoring masters grade level in the test.

Biology students followed history, with 92 percent scoring approaches grade level, 59 percent meets grade level and 20 percent masters grade level.

Algebra 1 slipped to 89 percent approaches grade level, 46 percent meets grade level and 18 percent masters grade level.

On the English 1 test, students scored 72 percent approaches grade level, 52 percent meets grade level and 12 percent masters grade level.

English 2 scores came in up at 75 percent approaches grade level, 57 percent meets grade level and 8 percent masters grade level.

Longview Early Graduation High School also scored highest in the subject of U.S. history, with 86 percent approaches grade level, 43 percent meets grade level and 19 percent masters grade level.

In algebra 1 and biology, 78 percent of students scored approaches grade level. In algebra 1, 59 percent scored meets grade level and 22 percent scored masters grade level. In biology, 37 percent scored meets grade level and 2 percent scored masters grade level.

In English 1, 36 percent scored approaches grade level, and 24 percent scored meets grade level. In English 2, 45 percent scored approaches grade level, and 19 percent scored meets grade level.

No students scored in the masters grade level category for either English 1 or 2 at the Longview Early Graduation High School.

Pine Tree High School

Clugston said he is proud of the effort that students and teachers put into the 2018-19 school year testing.

Overall, Pine Tree students scored highest in U.S. history, with 94 percent at approaches grade level, 73 percent at meets grade level and 39 percent at masters grade level.

The English 1 test had the lowest scores for the school, with 64 percent of students scoring approaches grade level, 46 percent meets grade level and 9 percent masters grade level.

The English 2 test showed 73 percent scoring approaches grade level, 49 percent meets grade level and 3 percent masters grade level.

“I really like seeing some growth we had in our English 2 scores,” Clugston said. “Our scores are not where we want them to be. We’ve got some gaps we’ve got to fill. I see a few bright spots.”

The second-highest test scores for Pine Tree students were biology at 87 percent approaches grade level, 55 percent meets grade level and 18 percent masters grade level.

Algebra 1 students scored at 80 percent approaches grade level, 43 percent meets grade level and 20 percent masters grade level.

“I don’t know that the scores always reflect the effort that’s put in at that time,” Clugston said. “I do believe we’re on the right path.”

Spring Hill High School

Like other schools in the area, Spring Hill students scored highest on U.S. history with 99 percent at approaches grade level, 87 percent meets grade level and 65 percent masters grade level.

Penny Fleet, assistant superintendent of curriculum and special programs, said the veteran U.S. history teachers are the reason for such high scores in the subject.

Biology students scored almost as well, with 98 percent approaches grade level, 82 percent meets grade level and 42 percent masters grade level.

Algebra 1 students scored 84 percent approaches grade level, 64 percent meets grade level and 35 percent masters grade level.

English 2 students scored 81 percent approaches grade level, 62 percent meets grade level and 15 percent masters grade level.

English 1 scores were the lowest for Spring Hill, with 78 percent of students scoring approaches grade level, 67 percent meets grade level and 14 percent masters grade level.

Spring Hill Superintendent Wayne Guidry said he would like the district to spend more time working on meeting and mastering grade level, not just approaching grade level.

“For a long time we’ve been trained to, because of ‘No Child Left Behind,’ where all we focused on was that bottom number of kids that approach grade level,” he said. “The system has evolved over the past five to seven years where it encompasses more than just approaching standard.”

White Oak High School

White Oak High School students scored at least 90 percent approaches grade level in three subjects.

In U.S. history, students scored at 99 percent approaches grade level, 77 percent meets grade level and 35 percent masters grade level.

Biology students scored at 95 percent approaches grade level, 78 percent meets grade level and 28 percent masters grade level.

In algebra 1, students scored 93 percent approaches grade level, 70 percent meets grade level and 33 percent masters grade level.

In English 1, 81 percent of students scored approaches grade level, 68 percent scored meets grade level and 20 percent scored masters grade level.

In English 2, 82 percent scored approaches grade level, 72 percent scored meets grade level and 9 percent scored masters grade level.


Local
Longview issues reminders as mosquito season approaches

Spring showers are bringing out the mosquitoes.

Mosquito season reaches its peak when the hot weather of summer arrives, because warm temperatures make them pass through their life cycle faster, according to mosquitoreviews.com.

Along with a blistering itch, a mosquito bite poses serious disease risks, including malaria and West Nile virus.

“I urge all citizens to remember the three D’s during the wet months of spring,” Longview Environmental Health Manager Leisha Kidd-Brooks said Friday.

Those “three D’s” stand for “Deet, drain and dusk-to-dawn.”

Deet is a chemical that Kidd-Brooks said should be applied to any exposed skin while outdoors. She also advises spraying Deet onto clothing as an extra layer of protection.

Residents should drain all stagnant water on or near their properties, she said.

“Empty and remove all tires, lean kiddie pools against the house to prevent water accumulation in the rim of the pool, visually inspect water fountains and birdbaths that are no longer functioning, and last, but certainly not least, empty all potted plants that hold water in the bottom,” she said.

Kidd-Brooks also advises residents to stay indoors, if possible, during the dusk and dawn hours when mosquitoes are most active.

She also offered advice to fighting back against the critters.

“If your yard holds water after a rainfall, douse the area with vegetable or baby oil, which will inhibit oxygen and smother the larvae in its infancy stages,” she said.

Kidd-Brooks also mentioned the Mosquito Eradicator, a product available at local feed stores. Two tubes cost about $20 and last for three months, she said.

According to its website, the Mosquito Eradicator contains chemicals that attract male and female mosquitoes. A homeowner adds water to the chemicals in tubes, then hangs the tubes away from people. After mosquitoes feed on the solution, they die before they can breed again.

“They should hang at least 40 to 60 feet from where you will be sitting, simply because they will attract mosquitoes and then kill them,” Kidd-Brooks said.

As for residents expecting to see fogging trucks riding through their neighborhoods, Kidd-Brooks said that technique is ineffective in reaching the eggs of mosquitoes in stagnant pools of water.

“Am I saying it doesn’t kill mosquitoes? Absolutely not,” she said, “but with a little education and information, we can significantly reduce this annoying insect while being proactive.”


Pentagon tells White House: Keep politics away from the military

From wire reports

The Pentagon has told the White House to stop politicizing the military, amid a furor over a Trump administration order to have the Navy ship named for the late U.S. Sen. John McCain hidden from view during President Donald Trump’s recent visit to Japan.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Navy officials have faced intense scrutiny over the request to hide the warship — a moment, among others, some defense officials and analysts have said is a sign of decay in the civilian-military relationship, which has been traditionally divorced from partisan rancor.

Amid the backlash, Shanahan told his chief of staff to tell the White House not to put the military in political situations, Shanahan’s spokesman, Lt. Col. Joseph Buccino, told The Washington Post.

The Navy confirmed Saturday it received a request from the White House to “minimize the visibility” of the ship.

But 7th Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Phillip G. Sawyer squashed any potential effort to “put the ship out of sight” a day or two before Trump’s visit over Memorial Day weekend, a senior Navy official told The Post on Sunday, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter.

The request was apparently made to avoid angering Trump.

“I was not a big fan of John McCain in any shape or form,” Trump said last week. “Now, somebody did it because they thought I didn’t like him, OK? And they were well-meaning.”

That an intervention by a senior commander was needed may have led Shanahan to consider formal guidance to avoid political entanglements in the future. Defense officials said Shanahan is weighing directives that bring clarity to how the military should support VIP visits and how to handle White House requests, the Associated Press reported.

Loren DeJonge Schulman, a former defense official with the Obama administration, said the issue of military officials acquiescing to the White House could reveal deeper issues.

“If Shanahan cares about politicization risks, he should feel very uncomfortable that he was not informed about this request before it went public,” said Schulman, now a defense analyst at the Center for a New American Security.

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney on Sunday shrugged off the controversy, playing down the apparent intrusion of politics into military affairs.

Mulvaney was asked about the flap on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and said he thought the request probably was made by a young administration staffer and said it was “not an unreasonable thing,” given the commander in chief’s well-known antipathy toward McCain.

“The fact that some 23- or 24-year-old person on the advance team went to that site and said, ‘Oh my goodness, there’s the John McCain. We all know how the president feels about the former senator, and maybe that’s not the best background. Could someone look into moving it?’ That’s not an unreasonable thing to ask,” Mulvaney said.

It is not clear who within the White House made the request or whether any Navy commanders took steps to comply before Sawyer’s intervention. Shanahan said the Pentagon will not investigate, the AP reported.

The ship was named after the father and grandfather of McCain and rededicated last year to include the senator. Shanahan told reporters he spoke with McCain’s widow, Cindy, about the incident amid Trump’s continued criticism of the former war prisoner and staunch critic of his administration.

Analysts and officials have expressed concern over how Trump’s style — appearing before apolitical military audiences to deliver decidedly political messages and courting them as supporters — has broken with efforts to maintain separation between the military and politics.

In other instances, Trump has attacked Democrats, talked about immigration and his proposed border wall — a central campaign issue — and blasted his own chain of command as uniformed personnel stood around him.

Those types of events, where troops may applaud their commander in chief, run the risk of appearing to voters as an endorsement, said Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., a former Marine and member of the House Armed Services Committee.

“When you have the president go to events like this, it looks like a junta,” Gallego told The Post. Civilian control of the military dates back to George Washington, and a clear separation allows the military to avoid any appearance of influence over domestic political issues, he said.

Phil Carter, a senior researcher at the Rand Corp. who studies the civilian-military relationship, said even small displays of partisanship could endanger the balance.

“In a political system where power shifts among parties and leaders every 2 or 4 years, both in Congress and the White House, such mistrust can introduce dangerous instability into national security decision-making,” Carter said in an email.

The Navy’s top officer, Adm. John Richardson, reaffirmed the partition in the wake of the McCain incident.

“Part of this trust and confidence that we have not only up and down the chain of command, but also just as importantly with the American people, is that we do support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” he said.

“We are apolitical by nature, and so that needs to be maintained.”

Meanwhile, partisan comments amid a splash of military imagery has filtered down to the president’s son. Donald Trump Jr., a top campaign surrogate, appeared on “Fox and Friends” last month during Fleet Week in New York City.

Hosts aboard the USS New York asked Trump Jr. about the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. “The Democrats are not dealing in good faith, we know that,” he said, as more than a dozen sailors and Marines looked on.


Trump officials say Mexico needs to act quickly on immigration to avoid tariffs

The administration sought Sunday to build support for President Donald Trump’s threat to impose a 5 percent tariff on Mexican imports, despite objections from the U.S. business community and members of his own party.

Conditions “have to get dramatically better, and they have to get better quickly,’’ White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said on Fox News. “There are specific things the Mexicans can do.’’ The administration, however, has not set any precise immigration-reduction targets for Mexico.

Administration officials made the rounds of Sunday television talk shows with a week to go before Trump’s June 10 deadline to impose the 5 percent tariff on Mexican goods. If Mexico doesn’t stem the flow of immigrants to the United States, the administration has warned, the tariffs could eventually increase up to 25 percent.

Mulvaney said on NBC News’s “Meet the Press” that the catalyst for Trump’s surprise threat last week was the crossing of 1,036 immigrants from Tijuana across the border into the United States in a single incident.

Customs and Border Protection called the early Wednesday breach the largest single detention of migrants to date. The group included 934 family members, 63 unaccompanied minors and 39 single adults, the agency said. Trump tweeted a grainy government surveillance video on Thursday of scores of immigrants filing through an apparent hole in a border fence.

“A group of one thousand people stormed the border outside of Tijuana, Mexico,’’ Mulvaney declared Sunday on NBC. “We’re facing things at the border we’ve never experienced before.’’

He said the mass detention Wednesday “was sort of the touchstone’’ for Trump’s surprise tariff decision.

The time stamp on the surveillance video is 3:20 a.m. Wednesday. Trump issued his threat a little over 24 hours later, sending shock waves through the political world and through securities markets, which took another tumble late last week.

Mulvaney also blamed Democrats in Congress for not supporting Trump’s border agenda, which Mulvaney said caused the president to seek ways to apply direct pressure on Mexico. Democrats have repeatedly rejected billions in funding for Trump’s proposed expansion of a border wall from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.

“They won’t help us,’’ Mulvaney lamented.

Trump set off shock and dismay throughout the U.S. business community and from Republicans in Congress with his tariff threat. The criticism from his own party did not let up Sunday. Sen. John Neely Kennedy, R-La., called Trump’s move a “mistake.”

“He’s been known to play with fire, but not live hand grenades,’’ Kennedy said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation.’’ “And if he slaps a 25 percent tariff on Mexico, it’s going to tank the American economy, and I think the president knows that and I don’t think he’ll do it.’’

Trump showed no signs of backing down, however. He kept up the pressure on Mexico on Twitter.

“Either they stop the invasion of our Country by Drug Dealers, Cartels, Human Traffickers,’’ he said in a pair of Sunday morning tweets, “or our many companies and jobs that have been foolishly allowed to move South of the Border, will be brought back into the United States through taxation (Tariffs). America has had enough!’’

Mulvaney and Kevin McAleenan, acting secretary of homeland security, outlined measures that Mexico could take to head off the tariffs.

The administration wants Mexico to crack down on illicit businesses that profit from transporting migrants through the country on their trip north, allow more migrants to seek asylum in Mexico instead of the United States, and stop migrants from entering Mexico from Central America in the first place.

“These crossings into Mexico are happening at a 150-mile stretch of their southern border,’’ McAleenan said on CNN’s “State of the Union.’’ “This is a controllable area.’’

The administration also is urging Congress to pass $4.5 billion in a border-related supplemental budget, $3.3 billion of which would be earmarked for improving facilities to house and care for underage migrants, McAleenan said.

Trump’s tariffs have set off alarm among members of both parties and business leaders, who fear it will damage prospects for a rewrite of the North American trade pact, called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA. It also has set off jitters about the potential for disruptive trade battles with other U.S. allies.

Economists have warned about the effect on U.S. consumers of a tax on imports from one of the nation’s most important trading partners.

Mulvaney sought to soothe these concerns. He said that the tariff proposal is about immigration, not the broader trading partnership with Mexico and that the administration sees no conflict between the two strategies. And he said that Trump’s escalating trade war with China has not boosted inflation and that tariffs on Mexican imports would similarly not have an effect on prices.

“That old-fashioned economic orthodoxy doesn’t work when it’s relatively easy to substitute other goods,’’ Mulvaney said, predicting a jump in U.S. production of consumer goods to fill the gap. “American consumers will not pay because of the burden of these tariffs.’’