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At Abilene High School, Smith said she also has worked at personal outreach. She sent letters home in recent weeks to particular parents and invited struggling students into her office to talk about their scores and options for improvement.

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"We can score those on campus and a data system will tell us trends for students or specific classes," Smith said. "A teacher can see all of her students in first period were answering No. 13 wrong and figure out what skill she needs to cover to help them learn it better."

"That's where we've been focusing a whole lot of our efforts," said Gaile Thompson, Abilene ISD executive director of secondary education.

percent in every subgroup must pass math and 55 percent must pass science for a school to remain "academically acceptable."

They've reviewed how to write a clear introduction and conclusion. They've taken multiple choice tests over terms like "personification." They've brainstormed example prompts, such as "Write about a time Vans Orange Sole you had to do something difficult," or "Write about your favorite memory."

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n A group came from an Education Service Center near Houston to train teachers in math curriculum.

n Another grant funded a math coach to help teachers at both high schools with classroom lessons.

"When students know a practice test doesn't count, they don't give it the same effort," Smith said. "We'll count it as a class grade, but they always do better on the real thing."

"That technology will help make these subjects more interesting for students," Thompson said.

n The grass roots Closing the Gap coalition of community members has visited schools and individual homes of minority students who have failed the TAKS before. The group also sponsored tutoring and practice tests at various community sites.

Last year, if a few more black high school students in Abilene ISD had failed math or science, the high schools would have slipped into the state's lowest rating of "academically unacceptable."

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Thompson ticked off a list of AISD's extra efforts to improve high school math and science scores:

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said the seventh graders in her English classes at Madison Middle School are "more than ready" to kick off TAKS season with their writing exam Wednesday.

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Abilene's new superintendent, Heath Burns, said his goal in future school years is to close the achievement gap between students of different ethnicity and economic conditions. He hopes to do that by increasing the number of "benchmark" skill tests students take throughout the year and carefully look at the data to plan individual student improvement.

n High schools have started special after school tutoring sessions in recent weeks for math and science TAKS preparation.

week's round of tests, especially with a new legislative reprieve exempting refugee student scores for their first five years in the United States. Previously, scores were only exempt for three years, said Cynthia Smith, Abilene High School instructional specialist.

n A T3 grant has been used to funnel technology into math and science classrooms this year, including Promethean or interactive whiteboards, calculators, probes, and more. The grant also paid for two instructional technologists to help teachers integrate the devices.

However, the district has been pumping most reform efforts into math and science, where students struggle most in AISD and throughout the state and nation. Those tests are scheduled for late April. Higher scores are required to pass this year's tests and schools are responsible for all economic and racial groups separately.

Next week, all Abilene High students in grades 9 11 will take a full practice TAKS tests in math and science.

test time in public schools

While that will help teachers know how their students are doing, the district won't yet have a clear idea of how the scores will ultimately pan out.

New passing requirements have hiked up 5 percent from last year. This year, 60 Skechers Flex Walk

The first round of The Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills tests begin Wednesday with English and writing tests. Abilene Independent School District officials say they aren't too concerned about this Vans For Girls Black

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