Alvord, Northwest earn A’s; All districts receive passing grades in ratings

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, August 18, 2018

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Two Wise County school districts earned A’s in the first A-F accountability ratings released Wednesday by the Texas Education Agency.

Alvord and Northwest received A’s based on three domains measuring academic performance – student achievement, school progress and closing the gaps. All districts in the county earned passing grades.

In the student achievement domain, student performance is evaluated across all subjects for all students on both general and alternate assessments, college, career and military readiness indicators and graduation rates. The school progress measures district and campus outcomes in two areas – the number of students that grew at least one year academically as measured by State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) results and the achievement of all students relative to districts or campuses with similar economically disadvantaged percentages. In the closing the gaps domain, data is used to demonstrate differentials among racial and ethnic groups, socioeconomic backgrounds and other factors.

The TEA assigned scores but did not give grades for individual campuses in this year’s accountability rating based on the same domains. Campuses received notations of met standard or improvement required. All campuses in the county received the rating of met standard with the exception of Boyd Intermediate and Middle Schools.

Boyd ISD Superintendent Ted West said the staff on the campuses will be receiving additional training from state consultants. The district has also combined the leadership for the two campuses that share a footprint under principal Daniel Bourgeois.

“We are going to give our fullest effort to rectify those scores. Bringing both campuses under consistent leadership will pay long-term dividends for us,” West said.

As a district, Boyd had a C with an overall grade of 76, with a 77 for student achievement, 69 for school progress and 73 for closing the gaps.

“The district rating is a culmination of the four campuses,” West said.

Alvord scored an average of 90, getting an 89 for student achievement, 84 for school progress and 93 for closing the gaps.

While his district was one of 121 districts in the state to earn an A, Alvord ISD Superintendent Randy Brown expressed some concern about the ratings, which are centered around students’ performance on the STAAR exams.

“We are very proud of our students and staff,” Brown said. “We have great teachers who make sure our students are learning each and every day. We will keep our scores and the purpose of assessment in perspective. The A-F system in its current state is too focused on standardized testing; it can’t measure everything that matters in a school district. Now that we have the results, we can begin working on analyzing the data and understanding this new accountability system. If we can find a way to use these outcomes to help us improve we will certainly do so.”

Northwest earned a 90 for student achievement, 85 for school progress and 94 for closing the gaps.

“As a school district, we are not in favor of the A-F rating system. Though I am pleased NISD received an A rating from the state, we use so much more to measure academic and social excellence,” said Northwest ISD Superintendent Ryder Warren. “I am extremely proud of our students and educators. The state rating system is a small piece of the overall picture we use to measure our kids, our teachers, our schools, and NISD as a whole. We continue to advocate for a community-based accountability system that looks beyond one grade and one exam. Decatur and Paradise earned B’s in the rating along with 45 percent of school districts in the state.

Decatur’s overall score was an 86. The district scored an 87 for student achievement, 83 for school progress and 84 for closing the gaps.

“In Decatur ISD, we welcome accountability in various forms and continue to raise the bar locally as well as in response to the accountability measures at the state and federal level. Our ultimate accountability is to our stakeholders and those we serve – our students, parents, staff and community,” said Decatur ISD Superintendent Judi Whitis. “We are proud of our staff for the incredible work they do each day. We know that a single test and a single grade do not define the success that is happening in DISD. A continued focus on a rigorous curriculum, quality instruction and a comprehensive assessment program will result in growth and performance on the state test and any other measures.”

Paradise graded out with an 83, with an 84 for student achievement, 76 for school progress and 82 for closing the gaps.

“We are pleased with the rating of a B,” said Paradise ISD Superintendent Paul Uttley. “We will celebrate our areas of strength and focus on the areas where we can improve. Our administrators, teachers and staff work diligently throughout the year to make sure that all students are successful. I am thrilled with the work that our staff does on a daily basis to meet our students where they are at, and to move them forward. I am also encouraged by the work of this Commissioner in his efforts to make sure that the strengths of the districts are recognized through this accountability system.”

Because it is a single-campus district, Slidell was assigned the rating of met standard with an overall grade of 80. The district had an 80 for student achievement, 84 for school progress and 72 for closing the gaps.

“We are focused on the education of each individual kid,” said Slidell ISD Superintendent Greg Enis. “We don’t even talk accountability with our staff. We are just focused on the kids we have.”

Along with Boyd, Bridgeport and Chico received C’s.

Bridgeport graded out with a 79. The district scored a 76 for student achievement, 80 for school progress and 76 for closing the gaps.

“We were one point from a B. We were excited about the areas where we improved,” said Bridgeport ISD Superintendent Brandon Peavey. “The information provided areas of opportunity to improve. But I’m sure a single grade is not a true reflection of the work and ability of our students. We’ll take the information, roll up our sleeves and work to continue improving.”

Chico received a score of 78 with a 75 for student achievement, 79 for school progress and 76 for closing the gaps.

Chico ISD Superintendent Don Elsom was critical of the new system.

“The idea that you can take everything a school does in a year’s time and put it into a letter grade is still ludicrous,” Elsom said. “Chico ISD met standard on all of the state’s accountability benchmarks. We received a C overall grade with a scale score of a 78. Do I believe this means anything? No, I do not. I bet you could not even tell me what the 78 scale score means or even where it comes from. We will take the information in the report and use it to evaluate whether or not we are doing our best. If we are, we will do everything we can to keep doing it. If not, we will work to improve ourselves.”

Elsom also pointed out that school districts throughout the state outperformed charter schools.

“While 96 percent of non-profit public schools met the standard and only 90 percent of charter schools did,” Elsom said.

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