WISD Board hears briefly about ‘good news’ on new accountability ratings

Posted Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Results released Thursday by the Texas Education Agency indicate Weatherford ISD leads the way in one of the four indexes that measures graduation and completion rates under the state’s new accountability ratings

Under the system, which is based on measurements including standardized test scores, graduation rates and student readiness for college or work, districts and their campuses are rated either “met standard” or “improvement required.”

Though it wasn’t an agenda item, Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Hanks asked Linda Crownover to quickly brief the board on the preliminary results.

“We feel really good as we were above the state average in all four of the scoring indexes,” said the executive director of curriculum and instruction. “Based on the other school districts we rate ourselves against, we were in line or better than all of them.”

The new system is essentially pass-fail, and districts and schools are measured in four index areas: results on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness; the closing of racial achievement gaps; year-to-year student growth; and college and career readiness at graduation.

Schools achieve a “met standard” rating by reaching all performance targets. “Improvement required” means a district or campus missed one or more targets.

Previously, the Texas Education Agency used a four-tier system that rated schools as “exemplary,” “recognized,” “academically acceptable” or “academically unacceptable.” The rankings were based mostly on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, which was criticized largely because it focused too much on general and cumulative information.

State legislators voted in 2007 to revamp the system, and STAAR took effect in spring 2012.

While local and state officials were generally pleased with Thursday’s news, changes to the system are coming. Beginning in 2016-17, the state plans to move to an “A through F” rating system. And passing standards will be tougher in subsequent years, TEA spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said.

Crownover told the board she believes one of the reasons WISD scored so well in the college and career readiness category is that administration and staff make it a point to seek out seniors who may be absent and getting them back in class.

“They really take the time to make sure the student gets back in school and is prepared for the next level,” she said.

The local numbers reflect results statewide: 93 percent of all school districts and charter schools met the passing standard, as did 84 percent of campuses. Of the 9 percent that got “improvement required,” 477 are elementary schools, 133 are middle schools and 129 are high schools.

“A transition to a new accountability system comes with a great deal of uncertainty,” state Education Commissioner Michael Williams said in a news release. “The 2013 ratings confirm that the vast majority of districts and campuses are meeting the state’s standards and providing a quality education for our students.”

Hanks said at next month’s meeting, a more thorough report will be given to the board.

As calculations continue on the 2013-14 budget, WISD board members also held a work session prior to Thursday’s regular meeting to discuss the most recent information available.

Tracy Ray, Assistant Superintendent of Business and Operations, said the $42,062,754 amount expected in the general operating fund includes a 5-percent mid-point pay increase for all staff and that 82 percent of the budget is for payroll.

Ray said the proposed tax rate of $1.39 ($1.17 Maintenance and Operations and 22 cents Interest and Sinking) is a penny less as debt services (I&S) went down.

Also new to this year’s budget are items to address safety and security at campuses including limiting visitor access by having a designated drop-off and pick-up area as well as restricted entrances. New radios are also being purchased to improve communications upgrades to video cameras are also being finalized.

A proposal to add a fourth school resource officer at a cost of $35,000 is also planned but may not come to fruition as officers are hired and work in conjunction with the Weatherford Police Department. Currently, WISD has two officers at Weatherford High School and another who visits all campuses.

New buzz-in systems are also in the works mostly for rear entrances to WHS, the Ninth Grade Center and Hall Middle School. A doorbell is to be installed at Crockett Elementary and card readers at 14 entrances or “strategic points,” Hanks said, mostly on the back sides of buildings.

Hanks also addressed the four portables that are being finalized at Austin and Crockett elementary and the various projects the maintenance department has been completing over the summer.

“Twenty-four maintenance personnel have worked on 50 different projects in less than 64 days which saved the district almost a half million dollars,” he pointed out.

Everything from parking lot lighting at WHS, flooring at Ikard and Seguin to the resealing of windows at Kangaroo Stadium was replaced or upgraded. Work on the portables continues but will be ready for use on the first day of classes.

“I know there is nothing we can do about it but they look horrible,” Board President Paul Paschall said, referring to the structures. “I certainly hope they are only temporary.”

Purchase of two portables for each campus became necessary to cope with overcrowding at the two schools after a proposed $107.32 million bond failed to pass in May.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

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