A C grade can look very different, depending on what the last report card held. In the case of Fort Worth schools, it’s a sign of steady growth and a potential path to major improvement.
Fort Worth ISD scored 79 — tantalizingly close to a B, and a four-point improvement over the previous year — in the second round of Texas’ new grading system, revealed last week. And on one major element of the state accountability rating, progress in student achievement over time, it did earn a B.
Superintendent Kent P. Scribner deserves credit for getting the district focused on the right goals and improving on the metrics that matter most. It’s up to the school board, other community leaders and the public to support his efforts and help keep the district on task and accountable.
Scribner ambitiously wants the district to earn an A. Remember, this is a large urban district with more than 86,000 students, many of whom are from poor families, at nearly 150 campuses.
Right now, too many individual campuses have low grades. There’s plenty of work to do. For Fort Worth, closing achievement gaps is an economic imperative.
Texas’ economic engine keeps churning in part because of extraordinary growth. Companies find it a great place to do business, and workers follow in droves. That’s why Fort Worth is one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities and now up to 13th-largest in the nation.
BETTER JOBS, BROADER GROWTH
But below the surface, there’s reason for concern. The city isn’t necessarily adding the most premium jobs, especially compared to the Dallas-Collin County area. Plenty of people are choosing to live here and commute east. And within Fort Worth, too many communities aren’t seeing the benefits of growth.
When businesses evaluate potential relocation sites, schools are high on the list of priorities not just for employees but also to ensure the next generation of workers will be ready to produce.
Tough competition surrounds Fort Worth ISD. Several suburban districts earned A’s from the state; the diverse Hurst-Euless-Bedford schools deserve a special shout-out for their top grades. To improve its competitiveness and spread the wealth, Fort Worth must stay on its path of improvement.
Scribner understands this, and he deserves credit for pushing the district to master basics during his tenure. We encourage the superintendent and city leaders to keep building in particular on gains in reading skills. They are the foundation of learning and the most basic measurement of how children are progressing.
PROGRESS ON READING NEEDED
Right now, just 35 percent of Fort Worth students meet grade-level standards for reading. Mayor Betsy Price and business leaders have joined the effort to improve, setting a goal for all students to be at grade level by 2025. That initiative needs continued support if Fort Worth ISD is to improve on its C.
The formula is simple, as Scribner suggested when the scores were announced: look at what’s working in the elementary schools where progress is most promising and replicate it across the district. Get reading right early on and more success will follow.
After years of fights over funding, lawmakers have improved state support of schools. Several Fort Worth-area districts, including Aledo and Arlington, are also asking voters to approve new bonds, as Fort Worth ISD voters did in 2017.
So it’s incumbent on districts to spend wisely and show improvement. The state’s A-F accountability system is a good tool for voters to hold their feet to the fire. Fort Worth ISD has earned a pat on the back — along with a gentle push on the improvements needed to get to a B and beyond.