Waco ISD dais

Waco ISD was chosen for a pilot program for local academic accountability rating systems.

Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte, file

Waco Independent School District is one of 20 school districts and charter schools that will develop its own local academic accountability system this school year as part of a new pilot program, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath announced Friday afternoon.

The local accountability system program, overseen by the Texas Education Agency, is part of House Bill 22 passed during the 85th Legislature. In Waco, it will allow the district to come up with a plan to evaluate seven of its own campuses, Waco ISD spokesperson Kyle DeBeer said.

The local system will be used in conjunction with the state’s new A-F academic accountability rating system, which starts next summer for school districts and starts in summer 2019 for individual schools statewide. The A-F system assigns letter grades for overall performance and for three specific metrics, TEA spokeswoman Lauren Callahan said.

Waco ISD will develop its own system to evaluate Bell’s Hill Elementary School, Hillcrest Elementary School, Kendrick Elementary School, Mountainview Elementary School, Tennyson Middle School, University High School and Waco High School, DeBeer said.

The local system won’t have any direct impact to the six Waco campuses on the state’s improvement required list for failing state standards this past year, five of which are facing the possibility of closure next year, depending on how they perform on this year’s state assessments, TEA and Waco ISD officials said.

About 50 charters and school districts submitted applications for the pilot program, Callahan said. The TEA selected the final 20 based on demographics, size, location and other factors, she said.

“In terms of number of campuses on the IR list being considered, they weren’t,” Callahan said. “But the other side of that coin is, to be eligible as a campus, you have to be a campus that met standard.”

The program is more about having locally focused control, a stance the district has been vocal about, DeBeer said.

“We don’t know what the specifics of the plan will look like, but it certainly has a lot of potential and is a step toward greater local control and … making sure we’re accountable to the priorities of our communities and not just accountable to a standardized test,” DeBeer said. “There’s nothing inherently wrong with a standardized test. It can be a great data point, but it’s just one data point, and the problem is an accountability system that relies on standardized testing almost to the exclusion of other factors.”

Waco ISD officials will attend four monthly meetings hosted by the TEA in the spring to develop indicators and domains for the plan, according to a TEA press release.

DeBeer said some of indicators could include, but are not limited to:

  • Extracurricular activities
  • Local assessments, including kindergarten through second grade on top of the state’s third- through eighth-grade assessments
  • Second-grade reading levels
  • Growth patterns
  • Wellness and fitness activities
  • English-as-a-second-language services
  • Gifted and talented services
  • Fine arts programs
  • 21st-century learning
  • Career and technology education courses and data
  • Increasing capacity and support for the district
  • Promoting systemwide integration and innovation with support
  • Increasing parent involvement
  • Student engagement as measured by attendance, chronic absenteeism, dropouts, and high school graduation
  • SAT-ACT participation and score improvement
  • Remediation program data
  • Having a safe, secure environment for students and families
  • High quality classroom instruction and interventions in place to eliminate barriers to success.

Once the state approves the district’s plan, it will use the local system for 2017-18 to assign the campuses A through F grades in conjunction with the three state-mandated domains that will be used in the A-F system statewide, the TEA press release states. The state-mandated domains are student achievement, school progress and closing gaps.

The district will be able to use the local system in conjunction with state domains again in 2018-2019, when all districts will have the option to include local accountability measures, Callahan said.

Premier High Schools, a public charter system with a location in Waco, was also chosen to participate in the pilot program.

The other districts and charters chosen to participate are Alief ISD, Austin ISD, Bullard ISD, Canadian ISD, Clear Creek ISD, Dallas ISD, El Paso ISD, Humble ISD, Jonesboro ISD, Lyford ISD, Midland ISD, Point Isabel ISD, Richland Collegiate High School, San Saba ISD, Sharyland ISD, Snyder ISD, Spring Branch ISD, and Sunnyvale ISD, according to the press release.

Shelly Conlon has covered K-12 education for the Tribune-Herald since July 2016. Prior to the Tribune-Herald, she was the managing editor for the Waxahachie Daily Light, and an intern for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

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