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Nonprofit assumes responsibility for 5 struggling Waco schools

Published: May. 24, 2018 at 11:57 AM CDT
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The nonprofit Prosper Waco has assumed responsibility for five struggling Waco schools that were faced with the threat of closure because of poor student performance, Waco ISD spokesman Kyle DeBeer confirmed Thursday.

Waco ISD Superintendent Dr. Marcus Nelson told the Waco Tribune-Herald in an interview Wednesday that Prosper Waco now has full autonomy over the underperforming schools.

The Tribune-Herald first reported the announcement Wednesday night.

The district did not provide the information Wednesday to other Waco area media organizations.

Nelson told the Tribune-Herald that the district’s assistant superintendent of student services and family engagement, Dr. Robin McDurham, is already working as a “transformation zone officer” for the schools, fulfilling a Texas Education requirement to provide an additional layer of independence from the Waco ISD.

McDurham is now on Prosper Waco’s payroll and the school district doesn’t plan to replace her, DeBeer said.

Nelson is trying to trim down a projected $3 million budget deficit and has already reduced administrative costs by about $500,000, he said.

“By assigning the responsibilities that been under that position to other senior members of the district's leadership team and not filling the position, we're able to further reduce that gap,” he said.

McDurham’s salary will be covered by the additional per-student funding the five districts receive, DeBeer said Thursday.

The Waco School Board gave Nelson a green light on April 26 to enter into a contract with Prosper Waco, which will create its own school board to oversee the underperforming campuses, which include Brook Avenue Elementary, Alta Vista Elementary, J.H. Hines Elementary, Indian Spring Middle School, and G.W. Carver Middle School.

All five have failed to make the grade with the state for at least five consecutive years.

The plan originally included a school that is currently meeting state standards, South Waco Elementary, but Waco ISD trustees voted to strike the school from the plan over a proposed grade alignment, which is no longer in the works.

The TEA is giving the district a two-year reprieve from accountability interventions and additional funding for these five campuses, DeBeer said in an email Thursday, but in order to buy the extra time, Proper Waco had to take responsibility for the campuses before the current school year ends.

The terms of the partnership are detailed in a three-year, 231-page contract between the district and Prosper Waco.

Students at the five schools have completed the first round of STAAR testing, and students have two more chances to take the tests before final results are released in August.

“You can't draw a conclusion about the accountability rating that a campus will receive based solely on the scores that are available from the first administration of the fifth- and eighth-grade reading and math tests,” DeBeer said in the email Thursday.

“Other assessments factor into those ratings, and we don't yet know for sure what the cut scores for this year's assessments will be.”

First round test scores released Thursday afternoon, which the district again emphasized shouldn’t form the basis for any conclusions because students who failed are able to take the tests again, show passing rates at all five schools that are lower in almost all cases than the district average.

According to the figures, 63 percent of the district’s fifth grade students passed the reading section of the test compared to 44 percent of Alta Vista’s, 37 percent of Brook Avenue’s and 52 percent of J.H. Hines’.

The figures show that 72 percent of the district’s fifth graders passed the math section of the test compared to 69 percent of Alta Vista’s, 59 percent of Brook Avenue’s and 52 percent of J.H. Hines’.

Sixty-seven percent of the district’s eight graders passed the reading section of the test compared to 58 percent at G.W. Carver and 67 percent at Indian Spring.

The figures show that 64 percent of the district’s eight graders passed the math section of the test compared to 58 percent of Carver’s and 61 percent of Indian Spring’s.

Brook Avenue Elementary, Alta Vista Elementary, J.H. Hines Elementary, Indian Spring Middle School, and G.W. Carver Middle School.

First round STAAR results/5th grade math and reading

District

Reading: 63 percent

Math: 72 percent

By campus

Alta Vista**

Reading: 44 percent

Math: 69 percent

Bell’s Hill

Reading: 78

Math: 87

Brook Avenue**

Reading: 37 percent

Math: 59 percent

Cedar Ridge

Reading: 62 percent

Math: 70 percent

Crestview

Reading: 55 percent

Math: 75 percent

Dean Highland

Reading: 69 percent

Math: 70 percent

Hillcrest

Reading: 79 percent

Math: 77 percent

J.H. Hines**

Reading: 52 percent

Math: 52 percent

Kendrick

Reading: 63 percent

Math: 70 percent

Lake Air

Reading: 62 percent

Math: 73 percent

Mountainview

Reading: 69 percent

Math: 75 percent

Parkdale

Reading: 68 percent

Math: 66 percent

Provident Heights

Reading: 77 percent

Math: 79 percent

South Waco

Reading: 54 percent

Math: 67 percent

West Avenue

Reading: 72 percent

Math: 78 percent

First round STAAR results/8th grade math and reading
District

Reading: 67 percent

Math: 64 percent

By campus

Cesar Chavez

Reading: 62 percent

Math: 63 percent

Carver**

Reading: 58 percent

Math: 58 percent

Indian Spring**

Reading: 67 percent

Math: 61 percent

Tennyson

Reading: 75 percent

Math: 77 percent

Lake Air Montessori

Reading: 85 percent

Math: 72 percent