Area school districts receive report cards; results mixed

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(KWTX) School district officials in Central Texas and across the state received their report cards Wednesday under a new A-F letter grade rating system that has some administrators grumbling.

The Texas Education Agency posted the district and campus results online Wednesday morning.

(CHECK OUT THE RATINGS)

Among major Central Texas districts, only the Midway ISD brought home an A.

The Lorena ISD, China Spring ISD and Goldthwaite ISD also earned A grades.

The Belton and Copperas Cove ISDs received Bs while Temple, Killeen and Waco earned Cs.

Despite the C grade, however, the ratings released Wednesday included some good news for the Waco ISD; four of the five struggling schools that were faced with closure because of poor performance met state standards.

Districts received a letter grade for overall performance, but were also graded in three specific areas—student achievement, school progress, which measures how students perform over time, and closing the gaps, which measures how well different populations of students in the district are performing.

Campuses received numeral scores on a 0-100 scale.

They won’t receive letter grades until 2019 because the Legislature postponed implementation under pressure from local school boards and superintendents.

BELTON ISD: B (83/100)

The Belton ISD earned a B for student achievement, a C for school progress and a B for closing the gaps.

All of the district’s schools met state standards with scores ranging from 73/100 to 94/100.

The district expected to do better.

“TEA’s rating of a B 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,” Superintendent Dr. Susan Kincannon said Wednesday.

“It does not consider citizenship or community service, skills that are an important part of our culture,” she said.

“This new system limits its assessment of schools and districts to a very narrow set of measures, consisting primarily of STAAR results.”

“As a team of highly skilled educators, we will identify our strengths and weaknesses using the new accountability system and strive for the highest rating possible while continuing to understand and communicate that this system does not define or limit us.”

COPPERAS COVE ISD: B (80/100)

The Copperas Cove ISD earned a C for student achievement, a C for school progress and a B for closing the gaps.

All of the district’s schools met state standards with scores ranging from 73/100 to 90/100.

KILLEEN ISD: C (76/100)

The Killeen ISD received a C for student achievement, a C for school progress and a C for closing the gaps.

All of the district’s schools met state standards with scores ranging from 62/100 to 95/100. Alternative campuses weren’t rated.

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.

“For all of our schools to be rated as Met Standard for three straight years is a testament to the hard work of our students and the dedication and tireless efforts of our teachers and staff.”

Texas State Teachers Association/ Killeen Educators Association President Rick Beaulé and Secretary Jennifer Huffcut are aren't sold on the results, either.

“It’s absolutely impossible for anyone to conceive that the work of 45,000 students plus several thousand employees can somehow be condensed down to one letter grade,” Beaulé said.

“I don't feel that it adequately portrays what students, teachers have gone through and grown,” Huffcut said.

Beaulé says the flaw in the rating system lies in its simplicity.

“They need to move away from the letter grading system and how to properly fund the students” said Beaulé.

MIDWAY ISD: A (93/100)

The Midway ISD earned an A for student achievement, a B for school progress and an A for closing the taps.

All of the district’s schools met state standards with scores ranging from 72/100 to 96.100. The Challenge Academy wasn’t rated.

TEMPLE ISD: C (73/100)

The Temple ISD earned Cs for student achievement and school progress, but only a D for closing the gaps.

Most of the district’s schools met state standards with scores ranging from 72/100 to 93/100, but improvement is required at two schools, Fred W. Edwards Academy AEC, which earned 56/100 and Travis Science Academy, which earned 55/100. The Wheatley Alternative Education Center was not rated.

Temple ISD Superintendent Dr. Bobby Ott praised individual campuses that earned a total of 23 distinctions and said the district’s overall C grade didn’t disappoint him.

““As the superintendent of a school district with over 70 percent of our students identified as economically-disadvantaged, I cannot be more proud of a 96 percent graduation rate and ACT and IB scores higher than the state and world averages respectively,” he said.

But he took issue with the new rating system.

“In fairness to our public, this rating has explained no more about what is going on in our schools than previous ratings. For well over a decade, the state of Texas has committed to developing an accountability system that is simple and informs the public. Unfortunately, the design of the new A-F system does not accomplish these goals,“ he said.

“As we look forward to the next legislative session, the more concerning issue is the state’s grade of an “F” on funding "fairness" measures,” he said.

WACO ISD: C (76/100)

The Waco ISD earned a D for student achievement, a C for school progress and a D for closing the gaps.

All but one of the district’s schools including four of five struggling campuses that failed to make the grade for at least five straight years, met state standards with scores ranging from 64/100 to 87/100.

Improvement is required at Brook Avenue Elementary School, which scored 52/100.

Alternative campuses were not rated.

In May, the Waco ISD entered into a contract with Prosper Waco, which will oversee the five underperforming campuses, which include Brook Avenue Elementary as well as Alta Vista Elementary, J.H. Hines Elementary, Indian Spring Middle School, and G.W. Carver Middle School after all five failed to make the grade with the state for at least five consecutive years.

“This is the first time in a decade there are no low performing schools in East Waco," Superintendent Dr. Marcus Nelson said Wednesday.

"We are going from five school at risk of closing to only one”

“This is evidence that we’re on the right track,” he said.

“In one year, Waco ISD has gone from the state classifying one-quarter of our schools as underperforming to just one campus in that situation.

"We’re going to celebrate this progress, but we’re not about to be satisfied with it. I won’t rest until every campus meets state standards and every student in every neighborhood in our city receives a world-class education," he said.

Waco schools earned 21 distinctions in the latest ratings, up from 12 in 2017.

STATEWIDE

Statewide, 121 districts and 32 charter schools earned A grades and 334 districts and 22 charters earned B grades.

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath commended the high-performing districts.

“Achieving an A rating reflects the hard work and commitment of everyone within a school district, starting with our classroom teachers. We should all celebrate the outstanding work of these dedicated educators,” he said.

“Districts with high levels of poverty who attain this high level of performance are proof positive that poverty is not destiny. With strong instruction and curriculum, all students can succeed.”

Public school officials had complained that the A-F system enacted in 2015 relies heavily on student performance on the State of Teas Assessments of Academic readiness, not on broader performance metrics.

Louis Malfaro, the president of the Texas AFT, says the new accountability system moves the state in the wrong direction.

The commissioner calls this the fairest system of accountability ever. Educators and parents disagree and reject the misuse of standardized test scores from tests – that were not designed for this purpose—as the primary means of assessing how well schools are educating our kids,” he said.

“There is nothing fair to students or parents about using a one-time multiple-choice test to labeling schools and districts. This system will stigmatize and demoralize our most impoverished schools and embolden school privatizers to take community schools away from the communities they serve,” he said.

“Put simply, a comprehensive picture of all students’ abilities and performance at a school or district is not reducible to a one-letter grade label,” he said.

(Alex Cano and Christy Soto contributed to this story)