The TEA released its accountability ratings early Thursday afternoon, announcing that Beeville, Skidmore-Tynan and Pawnee ISDs are among the 93 percent of Texas school districts that achieved the superior rating.
Under a new TEA accountability system — which BISD Superintendent Dr. Sue Thomas has warned will take her doctorate and those of several others to comprehend, much less explain — schools and districts are rated as Met Standard, Met Alternate Standard or Improvement Required.
Pettus ISD was among the 6.5 percent of districts statewide that failed to meet the standards, receiving Improvement Required ratings.
Thomas had reason to be pleased, particularly because A.C. Jones High School was Met Standard — after enduring the now-abandoned “unacceptable” rating for two years.
Thomas told trustees at the July meeting she expected the high school to be rated higher because she and her staff had spent days measuring the school’s scores against the TEA standards.
Of the four, BISD scored highest in its number of graduates, second in student achievement, third in closing performance gaps and fourth in student progress.
Jones High School scores were almost identical to the district’s.
“I thought we should have received a distinguished award for the number of graduates,” Thomas says. “We had a graduating rate of 91 percent; the state standard is 75 percent.”
But she was excited that R.A. Hall Elementary had received a distinguished designation for academic achievement because of its reading scores.
What prevented BISD from enjoying a grand slam was that Thomas Jefferson Elementary was rated Improvement Required.
The TEA results show the school did not meet any of the standards.
“It didn’t come as any surprise,” Thomas says. “We were expecting that to happen. We’ve got work to do; we’re just going to keep plugging away.”
Brian Thompson, the PISD superintendent, agrees.
“We have work to do.”
Not only was his district rated Improvement Required, but also the high school and the elementary school.
The TEA results show the district itself was deficient in postsecondary readiness, as was the high school. The elementary school was deficient in student progress — but missed the score by two percentage points.
“This won’t be something we can’t easily fix,” Thomas predicts.
He says the high school’s lower postsecondary readiness score was because too many students were graduated on the minimum plan. They can choose one of three graduation plans: minimum, recommended and distinguished.
“You may have had a great graduating rate — and we do — you still can get ‘dinged’ on it, because the TEA wants more students to be graduated on the recommended or the distinguished plans.”
Thompson says it won’t be a problem next year because more of his students are on the higher-rated plans. But he still bristles at the conflict that the minimum graduating plan is accepted by the same state agency that rules it unacceptable when it comes to accountability standards.
“You can’t have it both ways,” he says.
Looking at next year’s accountability scoring, Thomas frankly admits she doesn’t know how Thomas Jefferson Elementary will be judged. Last semester, each BISD elementary school taught all elementary grades, first through fifth.
But this summer, she instituted a sweeping restructuring in which one school (FMC) teaches only first- and second-graders, another (R.A. Hall) teaches third- and fourth-graders and TJES will teach all fifth- and sixth-graders. Under the same restructuring plan, the sixth grade was returned to the elementary schools. Last year, it was taught at Moreno Middle School.
“You won’t be able to compare this year’s scores with last year’s, she says, “because it will be like comparing apples with oranges. Restructuring is like starting over.”
Thomas says she expects substantial improvements next year because of item analysis spreadsheets generated from the STAAR test scores by the TEA.
The analysis will scrutinize individual questions of each test and which student answered them.
Learning that a large number of students answered a specific question incorrectly is instructive, Thomas explains. But the analysis also will show how many students missed the same test question by all answering the same incorrect answer. That can be enlightening and indicative of that portion of a subject being incorrectly taught.
“We have a long way to go,” she says, “but it’s nice to see the high school off the ‘unacceptable’ list. The teachers there worked really hard to improve things, and they did. That’s the bottom line.”