EDUCATION

The Texas Education Administration released statewide accountability ratings Wednesday and local school districts earned a letter grade of either B or C. 

The TEA gave letter grades to the districts for the first time this year as part of an annual performance assessment, issuing C grades to the Killeen, Lampasas and Florence Independent school districts and B grades to Salado, Belton, Gatesville, Copperas Cove Independent school districts.

Statewide, TEA issued 153 As, 356 Bs, 247 Cs, 57 Ds and 16 Fs, meaning KISD fell below half of the school districts in Texas.

The TEA provides annual academic accountability ratings for public school districts and campuses across the state, using various assessment tools.

“The ratings examine student achievement, student progress, efforts to close the achievement gap and post-secondary readiness,” according to the TEA website.

This year, districts were given ratings in those three domains: student achievement, school progress and closing the gaps.

The student achievement grade is comprised of 40 percent STAAR performance; 40 percent college, career and military readiness; and 20 percent graduation rates.

School progress is based on academic growth and relative performance.

Closing the gaps is a more complex domain meant to demonstrate how well different populations of students are performing within a district. It is calculated by assessing grade level performance, academic growth/graduation rates, English language proficiency and student achievement.

Beyond individual scores in each of the three categories, districts were also given an overall score alongside a letter grade to reflect a summary of performance.

“C” DISTRICTS

Killeen ISD received an overall score of 76 out of 100, earning 76 in student achievement, 75 in school progress and 76 in closing the gaps. Each category was also scored out of 100 possible points.

“We’re very proud of our teachers and school administrators for the great job they continue to do every day in making sure our students get a high quality education,” Superintendent John Craft said at a KISD board meeting Tuesday. “We will work to improve where we feel like we can improve, but we won’t lose focus on what’s important and that is making sure our students are receiving a well-rounded, high quality education.”

Killeen, the largest district in the region with a total 2017-18 student enrollment of 44,223, scored lower than most adjacent districts, with the exception of the Florence Independent School District.

FISD also received a “C” grade, but earned a lower overall score of 70 out of 100 possible points.

The three campuses with Florence ISD had a total 2017-18 student enrollment of 1,046, earned scores of 74 in student achievement, 69 in school progress and 62 in closing the gaps.

Florence district officials had not responded to requests for comment as of press time.

The Lampasas Independent School District also received a letter grade of “C,” but an overall score of 79 out of 100, a slightly higher rating than KISD.

Lampasas’ five campuses had a total 2017-18 student enrollment of 3,334 and the district earned ratings of 81 in student achievement, 74 in school progress and 75 in closing the gaps.

“We were pleased with the results in many areas and the results indicate strong improvements in the areas that have been our focus,” said Chane Rascoe, Lampasas ISD superintendent. “These improvements are a result of the hard work and dedication of our staff and parents.”

Rascoe said the district will continue to work to improve more each day.

“We are excited for the future of our great district,” he said.

“B” DISTRICTS

All other local districts, including Salado, Belton, Gatesville and Copperas Cove, earned “B” grades, with the Salado Independent School District earning the highest overall score of 87.

Superintendent Michael Novotny said the district is pleased with the overall score and rating, citing SISD’s high student achievement score components.

“These scores demonstrate that our teachers are doing a great job of preparing our students for their future,” Novotny said. “The area in which we are working to improve is ‘closing the gaps.’”

Salado ISD had a total of 1,862 students enrolled at four campuses in the 2017-18 school year and received scores of 89 in student achievement, 76 in school progress and 82 in closing the gaps.

The Belton Independent School District earned an overall score of 83. This is the second largest district in the area with 15 campuses and a 2017-18 school year population of 11,488 enrolled students.

In an Aug. 15 press release, Belton district officials said the “B” rating does not accurately reflect “the many successes of Belton ISD’s students and teachers or the robust teaching and learning that occurs in our classrooms and diverse programs.”

“When I think of the quality of Belton ISD as one single letter grade, I can think of nothing less than an A,” said Superintendent Susan Kincannon.

Belton officials said that the district will use the new accountability system to identify strengths and weaknesses while striving for the highest rate possible.

BISD earned scores of 83 in student achievement, 79 in school progress and 82 in closing the gaps.

The Copperas Cove and Gatesville Independent School Districts both received overall scores of 80 out of 100.

CCISD had a 2017-18 student enrollment of 8,153 at 11 campuses and earned scores of 79 in student achievement and school progress, as well as 82 in closing the gaps.

“While we celebrate the tremendous gains achieved by many of our students and student groups, we realize there is significant meaningful work yet to be accomplished,” said Patricia Remmisong, CCISD deputy superintendent of instructional services. “Until every student succeeds in mastering reading, writing, math, science and social studies, our work is not finished and our mission is not fulfilled.”

Remmisong said the district’s instructional staff has already reviewed the latest student performance date and developed instructional plans to address the areas of concern.

“The result is a clear focus on classroom teachers developing and delivering great instruction, as well as continued monitoring of individual student progress,” she said.

Gatesville has a smaller district with five campuses and a total 2017-18 student enrollment of 2,786. The district earned a higher score in student achieve at 81, but lower ratings of 78 in school progress and 76 in closing the gaps.

Gatesville ISD Assistant Superintendent, Barrett Pollard, said the district is pleased with the overall rating.

“We want to celebrate the hard work and success of our students and teachers, as well as use the data to target areas for improvement,” Pollard said.

CAMPUSES AND DISTINCTIONS

Individual campuses within districts were also evaluated on the three domains of student achievement, school progress and closing the gaps, and received an overall score.

Campuses were not assigned letter grade this year, but were ultimately designated as “Met Standard” or “Improvement Required.”

Other, less common ratings issued were ‘Met Alternative Standard,” which is designated for alternative education campuses and “Not Rated,” which is assigned to campuses that do not receive a rating due to specific circumstances such as being a part of the Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program.

All campuses within the seven local districts were given the rating of “Met Standard.”

According to the TEA, campuses that have “Met Standard” are also eligible to earn distinction designations awarded for achievement in several areas.

These designations are earned based on performance relative to a group of campuses of similar type, size, grade span and student demographics.

Clear Creek Elementary in Killeen and Tarver Elementary School in Belton were the only two campuses within the seven local districts to receive distinction in all six possible distinctions for the corresponding group, including reading, math, science, academic growth, closing the gap and post-secondary readiness.

In the next assessment August 2019, campuses will also receive an A-F rating, according to the TEA.

A CREDIBLE ASSESSMENT?

The results are part of a new A-F grading system that is the fourth reboot of the Texas accountability assessment since its legislative inception in 1993.

This is the first year the TEA has issued the district letter grade ratings, per changes to the assessment system enacted by the 2017 House Bill 22, 85th Texas Legislature, which requires districts receive these ratings.

In spite of the ongoing revisions, the accountability system has been met with criticism from several educator groups, with many claiming it is lacking in ability to properly assess schools.

“Today’s A-F accountability labels provide few meaningful insights regarding our public schools and students,” said representatives for the Texas Association of School Boards in a public statement. “As we have seen in past years, accountability labels are generally better at tracking economically disadvantaged students then they are at measuring how much our children are learning.”

According to the TASB, the new A-F labels will not automatically change student performance in school nor will they bring solutions to lower performing schools.

“Most importantly, new A-F labels tell educators, parents and communities little if anything new or useful about their local schools,” TASB said.

The Killeen Educators Association concurs that the assessment’s single letter grade does not convey everything a parent should know about a district and that such a system leaves opportunities for misunderstanding and misinterpretation.

“We remain, as do thousands of educators and administrators across the state, opposed to the A-F Letter system for evaluating schools,” said association President Rick Beaulé. “We are openly skeptical that the efforts of thousands of educators and 44,000 students can somehow be distilled into one single letter grade.”

Belton School District officials said “this system does not define or limit us.”

According to comment from Texas Education Agency representatives, the design of the A-F accountability system reflects a commitment to recognizing high student achievement and the impact of highly effective educators while maintaining focus on the students most in need.

The TEA said it will issue report cards for schools so that parents will know how well schools are performing to better support their children and so that educators benefit from having clear information about school performance, highlighting successes and challenges, to help improve support for students and ensure growth over time.

To help parents, educators and community members understand the A-F system, the TEA has established a new website to share school report cards, https://txschools.org/

jbrooks@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7468

Educational Reporter

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