By Rich Heiland
Free Press Publications, LLC
For Walker County News Today
THE TEXAS EDUCATION Agency released its new, and controversial, report grading Texas school districts and the report cards were mixed for Walker County school districts.
The Huntsville Independent School District got an “F.”
The New Waverly Independent School District got a “B.”
In neighboring Grimes County, the Richards Independent School District got a C as did Madisonville ISD to the north.
Because the report was just released school trustees and Supt. Scott Shephard were not prepared to discuss it in detail prior to Thursday’s board meeting, but one trustee said “obviously, we are not happy with it.” Walker County News Today will be following up with local reaction.
The grading system, which has drawn fire from school superintendents and board members for being too broad and not reflective of what is going on in districts, is described by TEA as an effort to help parents understand how their children’s district is performing in easy to understand terms.
The scoring is based on three areas which are scored then added together for the final grade.
The first is Student Achievement, which measures what students know and can do by the end of the year on “both general and alternate assessment.” Measures are things like college, career and military readiness which include graduation rates and various testing results.
Next is School Progress, a measure of how much better students are doing on the STAAR test over the previous year. The STAAR test stands for State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness. It covers the subjects of math, writing, science and social studies.
Finally, the results look at “Closing the Gap.” This final category breaks down performance on racial, ethnic and demographic basis, including economics and looks at performance compared to the past measures and the state as a whole. In other words, does performance differ or change based on these sorts of groupings? And, if not, what is the district doing about it?
TEA SAID 70 percentof the total rating is based on the better of the first two categories.
Huntsville’s overall “F” was driven by D grades in the achievement and progress categories and an F in closing the gap. Within the progress category HISD was hurt by an F in “academic growth.”
In student achievement HISD rated 65 percent out of 100. In progress, it received 65 out of 100 and closing the gap as 42/100. Going out in the campuses, Huntsville High School was 64/100 in achievement; 60/100 in progress; and, 30/100 in closing the gap. The middle school ratings were 57/100 for achievement; 60/100 in progress; and, 39/100 in closing the gap. Across the elementary schools ratings were 53/100 on achievement; 58/100 on progress and 48/100 on the gap.
The rating system also looks at the breakdown of students by race and number who are economically disadvantaged. At the high school 50.7 percent were listed as economically disadvantaged; at the middle school, 61.5 percent and in the elementary schools, 70.7 percent.
One school official said during a break at Thursday’s meeting that the report is a “big dump” of data that “looks back” and does not reflect new directions the district is going in.
The TEA offers a quick video for parents: http://tea.texas.gov/A-F/
Rich Heiland, former publisher of the Huntsville Item and owner of Free Press publications, LLC, a reporting/writing firm working with media, has been a reporter, editor and publisher at several daily papers. He was part of a Pulitzer Prize winning team. He taught journalism at Western Illinois University. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org or 936-293-0293.