Four out of five Transformation Waco schools are no longer on the Texas Education Agency’s dreaded “improvement-required” list, according to new accountability data released Wednesday.

“This is evidence that we’re on the right track,” Waco Independent School District Superintendent A. Marcus Nelson said in a statement Wednesday. “In one year, Waco ISD has gone from the state classifying one-quarter of our schools as under performing to just one campus in that situation.

“We’re going to celebrate this progress, but we’re not about to be satisfied with it. I won’t rest until every campus meets state standards and every student in every neighborhood in our city receives a world-class education.”

In recent years, Alta Vista Elementary School, Brook Avenue Elementary School, Crestview Elementary School, J.H. Hines Elementary School, G.W. Carver Middle School and Indian Spring Middle School have been on the state’s “improvement-required” list, a designation largely based on performance on the state’s standardized tests.

Waco ISD

Confetti falls during Waco ISD’s annual convocation Wednesday at the Waco Convention Center. Five of six district schools previously on the state’s “improvement required” list have tested off, meeting state standard.

With five of the schools under threat of state closure if they received the same rating again this year, Waco ISD and the nonprofit Prosper Waco formed Transformation Waco, an in-district charter that complies with a new state law to shield the schools from closure.

At a back-to-school convocation ceremony Wednesday, Nelson announced five of the district’s six underperforming schools succeeded in testing off of the state’s improvement-required list, receiving “met-standard” ratings. Nelson started in the district shortly before the start of last school year and said at the time making progress at the struggling schools would be a top priority.

Only Brook Avenue Elementary remains on the improvement-required list, but it is shielded from closure because it is part of Transformation Waco.

Crestview came off the improvement-required list this year but is not part of Transformation Waco because it had not received the rating for as many consecutive years as the others.

Waco ISD

Waco Independent School District teachers from Indian Springs Middle School carry letters and signs to a convocation ceremony Wednesday at the Waco Convention Center. Indian Spring is one of five schools that test off of the state’s “improvement required” list.

‘It feels great’

Waco ISD staff cheered, released confetti, waved pom-poms and danced in reaction to the news at the Waco Convention Center.

“It feels great,” said Diego Tacon, a seventh-grade math teacher at G.W. Carver Middle School. “We knew this time was going to come. It definitely took a lot of hard work. We had some ups and downs, but now we’re definitely going in the right direction.”

The district is excited and ready to get back to work, spokesman Kyle DeBeer said.

“We think it’s a big step forward from where we were a year ago, but by no means are we done,” DeBeer said. “This is work that continues, to borrow the convocation theme, all day every day.”

Of the district’s 21 schools, only Brook Avenue was rated improvement required. The districtwide state rating, on a newly implemented A-F scale, is a C.

In addition to the official met-standard or improvement-required ratings, the state also issued unofficial campus ratings on a 100-point scale. Individual schools will get official letter grades starting next year. On this year’s unofficial scores, five Waco ISD schools got B’s, nine got C’s, six got D’s and one got an F.

WISD

WISD Superintendent A. Marcus Nelson speaks at the annual convocation at the Waco Convention Center. Nelson said only one school received an IR rating from the state.

Public education crucial

In his remarks Wednesday, and in a statement released later in the day, Nelson said public education is critical for the city.

“This is deeply personal for me,” Nelson said. “As a kid growing up in a poor neighborhood on the northeast side of San Antonio, public education made all the difference in my life.”

Nelson said it is important to persevere in the face of a growing movement to dismantle public education, in part through decreased state funding.

“Every child deserves a quality education,” he said. “It is a mandate in the Texas Constitution. This is a moral imperative. … We can, right now, make a decision that every fourth-grader in Waco ISD will graduate Waco ISD with an associate degree or we can take the fourth-grade writing scores and we can build more jail cells.

“As we move forward, we are focusing relentlessly on student learning and demanding excellence from every Waco ISD employee all day, every day. Our kids deserve nothing less.”

Though the protection from state closure is not needed for the schools that came off the improvement-required list, five will start the school year under the umbrella of Transformation Waco. The change will bring a bump in state funding per student and will make more support resources available at the schools.

“We welcome community partners whether it’s formal charters or nonprofits,” Nelson said. “I don’t see it as a mandate to end our (Transformation Waco) relationship or anything. I see it as we’re working and doing the best we can to make sure we meet all state standards. Just because we made it one year doesn’t mean we’re out of it. Some of those schools they still have a long way to go so we’re just taking it one day at a time.”

2018 Waco ISD campus ratings

KEY: MS — Met standard; IR — Improvement required; % ED — Percent of studentseconomically disadvantaged

* Note: The Tribune-Herald converted each campus score to a letter grade for clarity. TEA will not release A-F ratings by campus until the 2019-20 school year.

Source: Texas Education Agency

Campus Students % ED Rating Score Grade Distinctions
Alta Vista 498 93.8 MS 71 C
Brook Avenue 372 98.4 IR 52 F
J.H. Hines 499 97.2 MS 64 D
G.W. Carver Middle 477 89.7 MS 70 C Science
Indian Spring Middle 524 95.6 MS 71 C
Bell's Hill 749 96.1 MS 86 B
Cedar Ridge 565 95.2 MS 73 C Science
Crestview 602 91.5 MS 79 C
Dean Highland 738 90.2 MS 70 C
Hillcrest PDS 430 73.3 MS 67 D
Kendrick 529 94.1 MS 66 D
Lake Air Montessori 710 72.1 MS 68 D
Mountainview 382 73.6 MS 81 B
Parkdale 620 87.9 MS 67 D Science
Provident Heights 386 97.9 MS 74 C
South Waco 525 96.2 MS 82 B Reading
West Avenue 382 97.1 MS 74 C
Cesar Chavez Middle 847 92.8 MS 67 D
Tennyson Middle 930 79.1 MS 87 B Reading, Math, Science
University High 1735 81.8 MS 80 B Math
Waco High 1968 80.4 MS 77 C Reading

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