2014 Accountability Ratings: Under more demanding standards, East Texas districts, campuses fare well overall

Published on Friday, 8 August 2014 22:30 - Written by Emily Guevara eguevara@tylerpaper.com

East Texas schools overwhelmingly met the state’s academic standards in 2014 despite a slightly tougher accountability system.

The regional results mirrored the statewide data. However, slightly fewer local schools and districts met the standards when compared to last year’s results.

The state released the 2014 accountability data on Friday.

Tyler ISD received a Met Standard rating, one of two possible options. Of the school’s 27 campuses, 16 received a Met Standard rating and 11 received an Improvement Required rating.

Looking at the rest of the Smith County school districts, all seven — Arp, Bullard, Chapel Hill, Lindale, Troup, Whitehouse and Winona — received a Met Standard rating.

Charter schools in Smith County fared well in the ratings with six of seven campuses receiving the Met Standard rating.

The regional results mirrored those at the state level with an overwhelming majority of school districts and campuses meeting state standards.

Of the 104 school districts in a 17-county East Texas region, 91 percent earned the Met Standard rating and almost 7 percent earned the Improvement Required rating. The remainder were not rated.

At the campus level, almost 88 percent of the region’s 405 campuses received the Met Standard rating and almost 12 percent received the Improvement Required rating. The rest were not rated.

The ratings give parents, community members and taxpayers “an overview of how their districts and campuses are doing at meeting student academic standards and that students are learning what they need to know,” TEA spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said.

 

MEASURING PERFORMANCE

School districts and campuses receive one of two ratings: Met Standard or Improvement Required. Alternative campuses are rated using different standards and some campuses, such as Azleway Charter School and Ranch Academy, which are residential treatment facilities, are not rated.

The ratings are based primarily on student performance on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, the state’s standardized test, but also considered graduation rates and diploma plans for high school campuses and districts. 

Performance on four indexes determines a school or district’s rating. These are: student achievement, student progress, closing performance gaps and postsecondary readiness.

Each category has a target rate schools and districts must reach to meet the standard in that category.

If a school or district misses the target in just one index it receives an Improvement Required rating.

Schools that receive the Met Standard rating can qualify for up to seven distinctions in various categories. To earn a distinction, schools have perform at top levels when compared to other schools of similar size and population.

A district could earn one distinction in postsecondary (college and career) readiness.

Schools and/or districts that miss the mark in certain areas must address the weaknesses in an improvement plan.

If the school or district continues to miss standards, the requirements become stiffer. Extreme deficiencies over several years can result in a potential restructure of departments or administration with the last resort being alternative management for the school or district or closure, Ms. Culbertson said.

 

REFLECTING ON RATINGS

Local educational leaders praised the results while also acknowledging the need for improvement.

Tyler ISD Interim Superintendent Kim Tunnell said the district has work to be done particularly when it comes to addressing student achievement and college and career readiness.

The district showed great success in the area of student progress from last year to this year, more than doubling the state-set target.

She praised the performance of schools that earned distinctions and said the district is very pleased with the performance of the Robert E. Lee and John Tyler high school students. Seventy-nine percent of high schools statewide met standard and these two schools were among them.

She said the district is very concerned with any of its schools that didn’t meet the target, especially those that missed it in several areas.

However, she said, administrators already have created intervention plans and worked all summer to put the right people and support systems in place for teachers and students, Ms. Tunnell said.

Districtwide, the focus is on raising the level of instruction in the classroom, supporting the teachers and providing specialized support for students who are struggling.

“We know that we are doing well as (a) district in the growth of our students, but what we need to do is continue to increase that growth as well as raise it to a higher standard,” she said.

Lindale ISD Superintendent Stan Surratt said his district’s students did an excellent job.

“I think the scores and ratings reflect that,” he said. “We’re very excited about the results, but we know that this is just one day of testing. … We do so much more than just take tests.”

He said this accountability system is fairer than the previous one and “gives a better reflection to the community of how your campuses and districts are progressing.”

Still, he said, schools don’t need to overemphasize the tests because there is much more that public school districts teach that can’t be measured on a standardized test.

Whitehouse ISD Superintendent Daniel DuPree said the district’s “results are an example of the great job our teachers and staff are doing and … (are) a true representation of the team effort put forth by the students, teachers, parents and staff. Whitehouse ISD continues to focus on the growth of each student by working to ensure each child is successful.”

Chapel Hill ISD Superintendent Dr. Donni Cook said this year, like previous ones, the district has reasons to celebrate its successes and areas to focus on for improvement.

“We will use the STAAR test results (used to calculate most areas in the accountability ratings) for the purpose intended — to provide us with diagnostic information on each student and evaluation of the many support programs in our district,” she said.