Four Marlin High School students sat in their stadium’s aluminum bleachers Oct. 9 watching the Bulldogs play the Rogers High School Eagles during what could be the last football season of the school.
The state recently revoked Marlin Independent School District’s accreditation and plans to close all three campuses at the end of the 2015-16 school year unless the administration can present adequate steps to improve academic standing.
State law requires any district that fails financial or academic ratings for four consecutive years to be closed.
The state’s decision has left students concerned about the stigma of a closed district following them to new schools and affecting their post-graduation plans.
“What teachers are going to write our recommendation letters for college?” said Jamia Williams, a Marlin High junior.
Williams and her friends, Vanessa Vilchiz, Andrea Peoples and Anvesti Harris, don’t want to leave the district, saying they’ve attended school with the same group of friends since preschool and don’t want to be divided now.
“I grew up with these kids my entire life,” Harris said.
Williams thinks that if the district closes and she must transfer to another high school, her new teachers and classmates will think she’s dumb.
“(They won’t) be giving us the full opportunities that others have,” she said.
Larisa Kliman, an admissions counselor for Texas Woman’s University, said she understands the students’ concerns, but most universities don’t normally look at the district’s overall performance. Individual academics are more important.
“The more a student challenges themselves, the better,” she said.
Transcripts don’t say why a student transfers schools, said Christine Bowman, dean of enrollment services for Southwestern University in Georgetown. But students should contact the university of interest if concerned about admittance because of a district’s rating, she said.
“A single student can’t be held accountable for what happens to an overall school district,” Bowman said.
Marlin High School surprised district officials this year by meeting the state accountability ratings, which confuses the students even more.
Marlin High met standard in three of the four categories — student progress, postsecondary readiness and closing performance gaps — measured through the number of students who pass the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness tests. The campus failed the student achievement benchmark of 60 by one point, with an average of 59 percent of the students passing the STAAR exams.
But a district is measured by the results of the entire district, and the elementary and middle schools have struggled far more than the high school, with Marlin Primary Academy having the longest-running failing record in the state at eight years. Marlin High passed state standard for seven of the past 10 years.
In a letter to the state that focuses primarily on the elementary school’s failings, Seabolt credits the high school for its attempts to raise instruction level during a year where it was without a principal since January.
“The climate at the high school stands in stark contrast to the climate on other campuses,” he writes. “Interestingly, on the elementary campus the response was focused on the emotional well-being of the teachers, while in secondary grades the response was focused on student outcomes. That difference in climate had a noticeably different impact on student academic achievement.”
Williams said there is so much more to Marlin than its scores and she hopes the district remains open long enough for her to carry on the tradition of graduating from the same school as her parents and grandparents.
“I want to have the pride of graduating from Marlin High,” she said.