Twenty-nine Bexar County district schools and 12 charter schools headquartered in the county failed to meet Texas accountability standards in the 2015-16 school year, according to state ratings released this week. For many schools, this is not the first time on the list.
Twenty of these schools – labeled with “improvement required” status – were in the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD), up one from last year.
“For us, we’re not happy about the results,” Pedro Martinez, who just finished his first year as SAISD’s superintendent, told the Rivard Report. “Based on the hard work of our staff and what I see our students can do, I know the results should be better. But I’m also optimistic, based on the initiatives and structures we’ve put in place and some of the amazing talent we’ve hired, that we’re going to have better results this upcoming year.”
These initiatives include new leadership in several schools, increased professional development for teachers and principals, transitioning elementary schools into K-8 academies, and efforts to secure increased funding through a bond and tax increase on the ballot this November.
“What we’ve been doing this whole year is monitoring the schools, looking at where the changes needed to be made,” Martinez said. “We wanted to be very intentional because our district has been struggling for years.”
Accountability ratings are based on four equally-weighted performance indices the State uses to evaluate more than 8,600 campuses individually and 1,200 districts as a whole. These indices include: 1) student achievement; 2) year-to-year progress generally, among racial and ethnic categorizations, and across specific subjects, special populations, and English language learners; 3) gaps closed in performance by economically disadvantaged students and the two lowest-performing minorities in a school or district; and 4) post-secondary readiness.
Click here for an overview of the 2016 state accountability system.
The first three indices are evaluated entirely based on State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) results, while the fourth standard combines STAAR results with other indicators of college and workforce readiness, such as graduation rates. To meet accountability, schools and districts must meet state targets for the third and fourth indices and the target for at least one of the first two indices.
While all 16 districts in San Antonio met standard, SAISD and Southside ISD both failed to meet the index target for student achievement, which requires satisfactory STAAR scores on at least 60% of the tests administered in the district.
SAISD’s Connell Middle School, entering its fifth year as an “improvement required” (IR) school, was preemptively shut down, while Wheatley Middle School, an IR school for its second consecutive year, will become the high-performing Young Men’s Leadership Academy‘s new campus next year, Martinez said.
Martinez is looking on the bright side, however, arguing that many schools were just on the threshold of meeting standard, allowing “principles and teachers to really work together and say, ‘How do we make sure we never look at IR again, because we have our five-year goals, which are much more aggressive.’”
Additionally, Martinez said that struggling schools like Irving Middle School and P.F. Stewart Elementary, which have undergone recent leadership and structural changes, can garner hope from the five campuses in the district that transitioned from “failing” to “passing” schools this year.
These include Crockett and Davis middle schools, emerging from their third and fourth IR years respectively, and Gates Elementary, Highland Park Elementary, and Twain Middle School, all of which saw significant gains.
The district also will use examples set by smaller, K-8 academies like Hawthorne and Mission academies by adding sixth grade to 11 elementary schools this year and seventh grade to those schools next year. This strategy, already used by many successful charter and private schools, is based in research indicating that integrating elementary and middle schools in smaller environments supports a more successful transition into adolescence.
A large number of charter schools across the city made the list of schools requiring improvement as well, including two schools in the KIPP charter network, two Southwest Preparatory schools, Alamo Leadership Academy, and Shekinha Walzem, which was shut down this year.
Distinction designations, which are based on a school’s performance relative to campuses of similar type, size, and demographics, will be released by Sept. 16.