Education

‘The goal is to become an A school district,’ Fort Worth superintendent says

It’s time to be alert around school buses

The Wichita Police Department offers tips for drivers when they see school buses. It's illegal in the United States to pass a school bus when it's stopped to unload or load children. (2017)
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The Wichita Police Department offers tips for drivers when they see school buses. It's illegal in the United States to pass a school bus when it's stopped to unload or load children. (2017)

The Fort Worth school district received a C rating Thursday from the state.

“The goal is to become an A school district and the goal is to eliminate D and F campuses in Fort Worth,” said Superintendent Kent P. Scribner.

Scribner said the district’s overall rating doesn’t tell the district’s entire story because it barely missed earning a B rating (by just one-tenth of one percent). Scribner said the district’s overall score has been improving. This year, Fort Worth schools earned a 79 aggregate score — up 12 points in the last two years.

“The trajectory is heading in the right direction,” Scribner said. “Where we need to focus is providing tangible support to our lower performing schools.”

Scribner described the district as achieving a “standard bell curve” with more A and B schools than D and F schools. Most of the district’s schools are C schools.

There were 143 Fort Worth schools rated by the state. The district served 84,332 students in the 2018-2019 school year.

In Fort Worth schools, several campuses made significant gains, including Polytechnic High School, which moved from a low performing school to scoring a C.

“It went from an F to a C,” Scribner said, crediting that gain to deliberate and intentional efforts.

Eliminating D,F schools

Eleven Fort Worth schools earned A ratings, but 18 campuses received F grades. Nine sixth-grade centers and middle schools received the lowest ratings — a sign that something needs to change at that level, Scribner said.

Several campuses went down with a new baseline and formula for the ratings, Scribner said, adding that the ratings reflect a need for entire school communities to help.

“This is a team sport. We can’t do it alone,” Scribner said. “We need to work arm and arm with our community.”

At the middle school level, Scribner said the scores show it is time to rethink how middle school and sixth grade is configured. Middle school students typically take sixth grade courses at one campus and then move to another one for grades seven and eight.

“We know where our work will be focused in the upcoming year,” Scribner said.

Scribner said the district is in the middle of an overhaul aimed at garnering academic improvements, including filling some top leadership slots in upcoming weeks. He said the district is undergoing an overhaul that includes finding a new chief academic officer, new assistant superintendent of curriculum instruction and a new executive director of bilingual education.

Scribner said the district is improving teacher support systems so educators can have user-friendly tools that help them meet the academic needs of students. The district wants to better explain to teachers what to teach and when to teach it, he said.

Scribner said that he will change anything that isn’t working.

“It’s about performance and it is time for Fort Worth ISD to start its modern age and to focus on achievement and growth,” Scribner said.

Fort Worth’s highest rated schools

Scribner said the schools earning the highest ratings reflected successful special interest programs such as the new I.M. Terrell Academy for STEM and Visual Performing Arts, Texas Academy of Biomedical Sciences, the Young Men’s Leadership Academy and the Young Women’s Leadership Academy.

Five traditional elementary schools received A ratings: Bonnie Brae, Burton Hill, Lily B. Clayton, Tanglewood and Westcliff.

Scribner said academic efforts at Bonnie Brae and Westcliff elementary schools will be studied and replicated because they show how campuses serving large populations of low-income students can excel.

“It can be done,” Scribner said, adding: “What can we learn from those schools? Those schools are providing tangible and deep level support to their students in the area of curriculum and instruction.”

Scribner said Bonnie Brae and Westcliff provided intentional, user-friendly support for all teachers. They also have partnerships with community organizations and faith-based groups that are invested in school success.

The district had 30 B-rated schools, including Paschal and Trimble Tech high schools. Both high schools earned five out of seven distinctions.

Paschal earned distinctions in English Language Arts, math, social studies, science and post secondary readiness. Trimble Tech earned distinctions in math, science, social studies, post secondary readiness and comparative closing the gaps.

People can look up ratings for schools and district here.

Diane Smith, a graduate from the University of Texas at Austin, has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 1997. Smith, who has covered municipal government, immigration and education, has won multiple awards for reporting, most recently as part of a Star-Telegram team recognized by the Headliners Foundation of Texas for coverage of child abuse and Fort Worth’s Las Vegas Trail area.
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