By Wendy Gragg
Killeen Daily Herald
Officials were celebrating at Killeen and Copperas Cove school districts Thursday with the release of the 2004 school accountability ratings.
Both Killeen and Copperas Cove Independent school districts re-ceived an overall rating of Recog-nized under the new, more rigorous state accountability system.
The ratings, released for schools and school districts across the state, came on four levels Ex-emplary, Recog-nized, Academ-ically Acceptable and Academical-ly Unacceptable.
The 2004 ratings take into account scores from last years Texas As-sessment of Knowledge and Skills, middle school dropout rates and high school completion rates.
Exemplary districts and schools have a 90 percent TAKS passing rate for all students, student subgroups and a 90 percent passing rate for all special education students who took the State-Developed Alternative Assess-ment. Exemplary districts also needed to have 95 percent or more students and student subgroups complete high school. Exemplary schools with seventh- and eighth-grades needed to have an annual dropout rate of 0.2 percent or less.
Recognized ratings require a 70 percent passing rate on TAKS and SDAA and a high school completion rate of 85 percent or a seventh- and eighth-grade dropout rate of 0.7 percent or less.
Academically Acceptable ratings are defined by a passing rate of at least 50 percent on TAKS reading/English language arts, writing and social studies exams. A passing rate of 35 percent is required on math and 25 percent on science. Academically Acceptable also means a high school completion rate of at least 75 percent and a seventh- and eighth-grade dropout rate of 2 percent.
Academically Unacceptable campuses and districts fall below the criteria for Academically Acceptable.
Copperas Cove ISDs campuses and central office were buzzing Thursday afternoon with excitement from the districts performance. CCISD not only kept the 2002 Exemplary rating that two of its schools had, but Mae Stevens Elementary School also took the top rating of Exemplary.
We are excited, excited, excited over here, said principal Becky Kirkland. We wanted our exemplary flag back.
Mae Stevens held the top title three years ago and has been working hard to bolster its math TAKS scores in order to reclaim its status. Kirkland said it has taken one-on-one work with the help of parents and soldiers from the schools Adopt-a-Unit, the 13th Signal Battalion, to accomplish the improvements needed.
We had soldiers out here right up till the time they deployed last year, she said.
Kirkland said her heart goes out to the schools who missed the Exemplary rating by just a few points.
Were just hoping next year it will be all seven of us, she said.
Dr. Rose Cameron, CCISD deputy superintendent, echoed Kirklands jubilance. Cameron said the district is well on its way to meeting its goal for the last two years of becoming exemplary throughout the district. The 2004 CCISD ratings also boasted five Recognized and four Academically Acceptable campuses.
Meeting the challenges of a tougher system is quite an accomplishment, Cameron said, given the special circumstances of a heavily military student population.
We have turnover and we have tragedy in our district. We just have a different clientele than other school districts, she said.
Cameron said it has taken the effort of the entire community to raise the performance of the school district.
Everybody in the community cares about kids and about kids being successful, she said.
Killeen ISDs central office was pleased with the performance of its schools on the more rigorous system also. A news release from KISD said Superintendent Dr. Charles Patterson was elated that KISD had accomplished a Recognized rating.
Dr. Susan Holley, KISD assistant superintendent for educational services, said the school district outperformed the state in 12 out of 25 categories used in determining the ratings.
Its really phenomenal for our district, with the mobility we have, to have this high of a performance, Holley said.
A total of 16 campuses were named Recognized this year and 24 were rated Academically Acceptable. KISDs five 2002 Exemplary campuses slipped to Recognized this year. Ratings at Killeen High School and Harker Heights High School remained at Academically Acceptable. Ellison and Shoemaker high schools slid from their Recognized seats to join Killeen and Harker Heights as Academically Acceptable.
Though several KISD campuses dropped in ratings, Holley said that is not indicative of poor performance at a school. Holley said its key to remember that the bar was raised this year because ratings were factored using the new and much harder TAKS tests. Also, the ratings were based on passing rates for all students as well as sub-groups of African-American, Hispanic, white and economically disadvantaged students.
Sometimes, when you look at it, it can come down to just one or two students in a certain subgroup not mastering a certain part of the test, Holley said.
Eight middle schools were held back from Recognized status because of math scores, she said. Fifth-grade science was the barrier keeping 12 elementary schools from a Recognized rating.
Holley said those schools are already working on plans to address those areas.
About nine KISD campuses raised their ratings to reach Recognized or Academically Acceptable. No campuses were listed as Academically Unacceptable.
Holley said the district is proud of Liberty Hill Middle School, which brought its 2002 rating of Low Performing up to Recognized this year. She said several KISD schools are in a good position to move up to Exemplary next year.
Its a day to celebrate, it really is, Holley said.
Contact Wendy Gragg at email@example.com