Waco Independent School District is implementing additional teacher training programs and tutoring sessions for students districtwide.
District officials told a Texas Education Agency panel during a hearing Thursday that these efforts will help improve academics at two of Waco’s struggling elementary schools.
Brook Avenue Elementary and J.H. Hines Elementary schools have failed state academic accountability standards four years in a row.
The hearing Thursday was designed for state officials to see if sanctions need to be placed on the district to ensure the failing campuses receive adequate support to reverse their academic standing.
At four and five years of failing academics, the state requires a hearing and could require additional contact with the agency until the campuses improve. The TEA could instate a monitor, increase a monitor’s involvement or establish a “community partnership team” on the campus-planning level.
At six consecutive years of failed ratings, the state considers a campus for closure.
State accountability ratings are based on a four-index algorithm compiled from the number of students who pass the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness.
But Waco ISD officials said they left the hearing feeling the panel supported them and wanted them to succeed.
“It was a very good conversation about those two campuses, the challenges they face and the initiatives put in place by the district,” Board of Trustees President Pat Atkins said after attending the hearing.
Waco Superintendent Bonny Cain presented the district’s efforts to reverse Brook Avenue’s and J.H. Hines’ academic scores, saying the reasons for the difficulties include poverty and high teacher turnover.
Cain, Hines’ principal Tra Hall and Yolanda Williams, executive director of elementary education, along with other Waco ISD administrators, explained how Waco students face adverse poverty, which prevents them from coming to school ready to learn.
In an effort to provide more “wrap around help” for these students, the district provides additional teacher training on how to work with students from poverty. They also explained how the district added after-school and in-school tutors and began testing in kindergarten through second grades to prevent students from falling behind.
“The multigenerational poverty at both campuses makes it more difficult (for them to succeed) because . . . parents love their children just like everybody loves their children, but they don’t have those parenting skills. They don’t always have the problem solving skills,” Cain said.
The district should receive a report of additional requirements from the state within the next two months, Cain said.
“I feel like their opinion is that we are working hard and we’re doing a lot of right things to get the kind of student performance that they want,” she said.