Robstown's Seale Junior High School should lose its "Unacceptable" rating and two of the school district's elementary schools should retain their "Recognized" status based on preliminary test results, school officials said.

Meanwhile, Seale and Hattie Martin Elementary School remain the poorest-performing schools in the Robstown Independent School District, according to the preliminary results of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills tests.

RISD students continue to lag behind other Texas students in math and science, although RISD students made substantial progress in math and science from last year, while closing gaps in English and social studies.

The achievement gaps in math and science were district-wide, but were most pronounced from seventh to 11th grades.

For example, just 38 percent of 10th graders met the math standard and just 37 percent of 10th graders met the science standard.

On the positive side, many lower grade levels did well in reading, and Lotspeich and San Pedro elementary school students continue to excel.

For example, 98 percent of San Pedro third-graders met the state standard in reading and 81 percent of San Pedro's third-graders met the math standard.

At Lotspeich, 94 percent of third-graders met the reading standard and 83 percent met the math standard.

"I'm very proud of Lotspeich and San Pedro and the staffs," said Superintendent Roberto Garcia. "I think it is commendable, the job our principals and teachers are doing at the campus level, considering that 90 percent of our students are low socio-economic."

Hattie Martin students lagged behind, with 88 percent of Hattie Martin third-graders meeting the reading standard, and just 69 percent meeting the math standard.

But the biggest improvement was at Seale Junior High School, which was placed on "Unacceptable" status last year when the school's eighth-graders performed very poorly in math.

Just 34 percent of Seale eighth-graders met the math standard last year, and only 28 percent met the science standard.

But this year, 74 percent of Seale's eighth-graders met the math standard, and 41 percent met the science standard.

At least 45 percent of Seale's eighth-graders would have needed to meet the science standard to avoid another "Unacceptable" rating for the school. However, the junior high school should attain an "Acceptable" rating since there was an improvement of more than 10 percent in students meeting the science standard, Garcia said.

"Overall, Seale will be acceptable this year," Garcia said. "I think the growth there was phenomenal. Lotspeich and San Pedro will be recognized again, all preliminary indicators indicate that. Hattie Martin will be acceptable like last year. Ortiz will be acceptable."

Garcia said school officials took Seale's "Unacceptable" rating very seriously and focused on improving math and science scores.

"There was a huge improvement in math and reading at Seale, and social studies," Garcia said. "Our areas that we still need growth are math and science at the secondary level. I think our focus next year will be strengthening the math and science at the lower grades so that students will be better prepared when they enter junior high and high school."

Garcia said the new Seale Junior High School building, more parental involvement, a heavier math focus, and "a lot of modeling of effective teaching" contributed to the academic improvements at Seale.

"I think the new leadership at the junior high school focused on math with math specialists. There was a very positive attitude of our teachers under new leadership," Garcia said. "The new school helps. The learning environment where the students are now housed, with Smart Boards and science labs that were not existent, I think are showing a difference.

"The junior high and high school were our focus areas in math and science. We saw the results."

Garcia said poor-performing students in the middle grades are predominately from Hattie Martin Elementary School. Hattie Martin was "Recognized" four years ago, but has since declined to "Acceptable."

As a result, the school board voted last month to move about 200 second-grade students and 10 teachers from Salazar Elementary School to Hattie Martin for the 2008-09 school year.

Salazar, which will teach pre-kindergarten through the first grade, is the feeder school to Hattie Martin.

"Basically, all they are doing is moving from one campus to another to improve and have a direct connection in learning philosophy," Garcia said. "We need to better prepare our students as we are presently doing at the high school."

School officials said the school district is offering TAKS tutorials for students in the summer, after-school and nights to increase performance.

New facilities also help, Garcia said.

School officials received news June 19 that the district had been awarded a $1,230,000 Science Laboratory Grant from the Texas Education Agency to rebuild, expand and refurbish the high school science labs.

In addition, the district recently received a $250,000 Collaborative Drop-out Prevention Grant from the TEA to combat dropouts.

The district will receive the two $250,000 grants over the next two school years.

Garcia said future goals are to pursue another bond to build a new high school and Salazar Elementary School. He said the time to pursue new projects is now, before the school district's assessed valuation increases with the construction of the outlet mall along Highway 77.

RISD is currently ranked as the 22nd property-poorest school district out of the 1,040 Texas school districts.

The district should also receive state Instruction Facilities Allotment funding in mid-August to pay about 78 percent of the $15.5 million costs to build new schools to replace San Pedro and Lotspeich elementary schools.

"The facilities are an integral part of learning and they are working," Garcia said.

Robstown Independent School District Preliminary 2008 TAKS scores

Third grade

Reading: 94 percent

Math: 73 percent

Fourth grade

Reading: 78 percent

Writing: 84 percent

Math: 67 percent

Fifth grade

Reading: 81 percent

Math: 80 percent

Science: 49 percent

Sixth grade

Reading: 95 percent

Math: 78 percent

Seventh grade

Reading: 66 percent

Writing: 85 percent

Math: 55 percent

Eighth grade

Reading: 96 percent

Math: 61 percent

Social Studies: 81 percent

Science: 41 percent

Ninth grade

Reading: 71 percent

Math: 37 percent

10th grade

English/Language Arts: 80 percent

Math: 38 percent

Social Studies: 82 percent

Science: 37 percent

11th grade

English/Language Arts: 92 percent

Math: 76 percent

Social Studies: 94.7 percent

Science: 64 percent