While some school districts throughout our great state take tremendous pride in having just one state-ranked program, ranging from robotics, to baseball, band or agriculture, Leander ISD features many examples of students achieving at the highest levels.
Our students' successes reflect a great deal of their hard work, as well as the support of their teachers and parents, a child's most influential educators. Our LISD culture fosters the whole student, to ensure he or she will succeed after leaving our schools.
Earlier this month, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) released state assessment scores from the 2016-17 school year. In every category, LISD students outpaced their peers statewide, often by double-digit margins.
On average, 83 percent of our students met or exceeded the passing standard on the STAAR Test, versus 72 percent of students statewide. Ninety-one percent of LISD students passed their End of Course (EOC) exams, compared to an 82 percent state average. While we take great pride in this achievement and understand the value of state assessments, our evaluation of student success extends beyond Texas standardized testing.
Based on their performances on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT), last year we had 23 students who qualified as Semifinalists in the National Merit Program, 93 who earned Commended status and 31 who received recognition through the National Hispanic Recognition Program. I am especially encouraged by these achievements at the national level, because students who receive these honors are much more likely to earn university scholarship offers, strengthening the bridge between high school and collegiate success.
More LISD students are taking Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB) and dual credit courses, earning more college credit hours while in high school. We welcomed our first class of IB Diploma Programme hopefuls at Vandegrift High School last fall. Vandegrift is in the authorization phase of becoming our second IB school, in addition to Leander High School, which we hope to finalize in the summer of 2018. An IB diploma is widely seen as a "door opener," automatically earning students 24 credit hours at Texas public universities.
Additionally, we look forward to another year of exciting UIL competition. In three of the past five years, Cedar Park and Vandegrift high schools held the state's top honor of UIL Lone Star Cup champion, based on performance in athletics, academics, marching band and One Act Play. Coming into the 2017-18 school year, Cedar Park is ranked ninth in the state and Rouse eighteenth, with Vandegrift working hard to reclaim their title. Many state-ranked athletes and teams will return to our high schools — in volleyball; football; girl's soccer; boy's golf, swimming and wrestling; cross country; and track and field.
We are also anticipating the bi-annual 5A marching band competition this fall. In 2015, bands from Cedar Park, Vandegrift, Leander and Vista Ridge high schools swept the top four respective positions in an unprecedented fashion. Vandegrift, Leander and Vista Ridge moved into the 6A conference and competed last year, with Vandegrift placing fourth and Leander eleventh in the state. But Cedar Park and Rouse will return to 5A competition hoping to retain each school’s and the district’s bragging rights.
Also back to defend their state championship is Vista Ridge's robotics team, as well as our three state runner-up teams from Vandegrift. While still a relatively young program, I am astonished by the rapid progress all of our robotics teams have made in a few short years!
It is an exciting time to be in Leander ISD, to be part of an ever-evolving system that supports and challenges students to reach new heights. I look forward to sitting on the sidelines, in the audiences and in the classrooms to watch our students prosper and to soar to bright futures.