Transformation Waco is looking for a better way to measure student academic progress next school year to comply with performance standards outlined in the in-district charter’s contract with the Waco Independent School District.

The Transformation Waco board of trustees Tuesday discussed the results of recent benchmark tests students in the five Transformation Waco schools completed. CEO Robin McDurham said the positive results may be misleading, and the charter does not plan to continue administering the same tests.

“This is the second year that the state has provided the interim assessment, and we think they’re still working out kinks on how to communicate this information,” McDurham said to the board. “I know that our numbers look promising, but I just want to be clear — they’re too promising.”

The benchmark test results show significant improvement for grades three through eight in math and reading at the five schools. The five Transformation Waco schools are Indian Spring Middle School, G.W. Carver Middle School, Alta Vista Elementary School, Brook Avenue Elementary School and J.H. Hines Elementary School.

McDurham said Transformation Waco is looking for students to improve by a letter grade, from B to A, but every student has different growth needs, and these tests do not provide that data in a way administrators can easily access without additional work.

The state provided the benchmark tests but did not provide guidelines for the tests until after Transformation Waco implemented them, McDurham said. The state recommended giving students tests in the fall for the grade they just left the previous year. For example, the recommendations state an eighth-grader should be tested with a seventh-grade-level test.

“When you put a test in front of a kid with a year’s worth of learning, some of them will immediately shut down because they don’t know it,” she said.

McDurham said she does not have the benchmark tests on the calendar for next year because she does not think they provide enough information to be the type of tools that guide learning.

Karmen Logan, principal at Alta Vista Elementary School, said some students do really well on the computer-based tests, while other struggle. She said she would like to give the tests to students who vacillate between doing better on paper tests and computer tests.

James Stewart Jr., principal at G.W. Carver Middle School, echoed Logan and said that many students have developed strategies for paper tests that do not translate to tests given on a computer, such as highlighting and circling key words and phrases.

Transformation Waco board President Malcolm Duncan Jr. said he is concerned about the number of tests given to students, especially if the in-district charter is not getting enough information from the tests to help students improve.

McDurham said Transformation Waco would look at implementing the same tests Waco ISD gives to students to test their academic progress, the Measures for Academic Progress or MAPs. Transformation Waco students who do not have to take the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness already take the MAPs tests. She said she also hopes to test summer school students with those tests.

In other business, the board approved a $20 per hour pay rate for participants in Transformation Waco’s alternative certification program for future educators who must acquire their education certificates. It also approved six master teacher positions.

Brooke Crum joined the Tribune-Herald as the education reporter in January 2019. She has worked for the Springfield News-Leader in Missouri, Abilene Reporter-News, Beaumont Enterprise and the Port Arthur News. Crum graduated from TCU in Fort Worth.

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