TEA district scores: Abilene ISD drops a grade; Wylie ISD earns same rating

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The Texas Education Agency rated the Abilene Independent School District a grade lower than the 2018-19 school year, while Wylie ISD held the same grade that it did pre-pandemic.

Abilene ISD received a C for the 2021-22 school year, a decline from B for the 2018-19 school year, while Wylie ISD maintained its A rating.

TEA ratings are connected not only to student results on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR test, but also college, career and military readiness, graduation rates, school progress relative to economic disadvantages of its student population and performance trends of of subpopulations of students.

The state agency did not award grades the past two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic that started in March 2020, just before STAAR testing.

Instead of the usual A-F ratings, TEA gave only A-C ratings this school year, the Texas Tribune reported. Districts and schools that would have received a D or F instead received a “Not Rated” label.

Schools that received a "Not Rated" will be spared possible TEA sanctions during the 2022-23 school year, the Texas Tribune reported.

Declines and improvements

In Abilene ISD, eight campuses had lower grades, while five elementary schools that had F ratings improved − some dramatically, said Ketta Garduno, associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

The declining campuses are Cooper High School, all four middle schools, three elementary schools (Austin, Bassetti and Dyess) and Long Early Learning Center.

The five Abilene ISD elementary schools that improved are Bonham, from F to C; Bowie, from C to B; Stafford (formerly Lee), from F to C; and Ortiz, from D to C. In addition, Alcorta (formerly Jackson) improved from an F (raw score of 57) to Not Rated (raw score of 69).

In Wylie ISD, the drop from A to B at West Intermediate also caused the drop in rating for its two feeder campuses: West Elementary and West Early Childhood that do not test.

Statewide Trends

Across the state, 396 school districts (33%) received an A rating, compared to 301 (25%) in 2019, according to the TEA website. The number of "Not Rated" districts was 42 in 2022, an improvement over the combined total of D and F districts of 57 in 2019.

B-rated districts declined from 677 (57%) in 2019 to 645 (54%), while C-rated districts declined from 154 (13%) in 2019 to 112 (9.4%).

"The TEA’s ratings are determined by scores in three categories: how students perform on the STAAR test, which is given each spring; improvement in those scores; and how well schools are educating disadvantaged students. Students are tested on different subjects: reading, math, science and social students," the Texas Tribune reported.

"Driven by significant gains in student academic growth, 2022 saw 25% of districts and 33% of campuses improve their letter grade from 2019," TEA said in a news release. "18% of high-poverty campuses in Texas were rated an A, continuing to prove that demographics do not equal destiny."

Making sense of the grades

TEA's simple A-F rating belies the complexity of the formulas the state agency applies to schools' test scores and other factors in assessing districts, Garduno said.

Districts use the data, and not the summary letter grade, the analysis progress at campuses. Abilene ISD officials received individualized campus reports Friday, she said, and school officials are continuing to analyze the information.

"What means something to us is going into the data behind it and starting to explore and determine what that means so that we can identify areas that we're doing well and and areas that we need growth in," Garduno said.

Abilene ISD trends

Stafford and Bonham pulled up their overall ratings 20 points, which Garduno called a huge accomplishment.

The district now has to identified areas of improvement at other campuses and make targeted corrections, she said.

Abilene ISD identified in last year's accountability report a decline in math skills in grades kindergarten through eighth and already has upgraded curriculum and instructional materials, funded by grants. The transition included professional development for the teachers as well, Garduno said.

A grant also enabled the district to purchase Chromebooks for students to use who do not have a device or internet access at home, she said. And, more classroom computers and Promethean interactive displays for teachers is enriching the instruction as well.

Other issued identified that are affecting Abilene ISD accountability ratings are school attendance and securing economic disadvantage forms that accurately document the district's student population.

For example, while Abilene High and Cooper have comparable student populations, fewer forms turned in at the latter dropped the school's economic disadvantage percentage by about 4%. Garduno said. That drop doesn't seem like much, but based on the percentage, the state formula puts Cooper in a different category of schools than Abilene High, she said.

In reviewing the data in the latest accountability report, the district is looking at what needs to be done to help students be successful, Garduno said.

The individual campus data "tells us where do we need to focus? Where do we need to adjust? And, sometimes you will see that what is happening at Stafford Elementary is unique to that campus or to a group of campuses and very different from what's happening on another campus," Garduno said.

For parents concerned about the letter ratings, Garduno said "I have the greatest confidence in the ability of our teachers and that what we're doing in the classroom is focusing on the individual needs of the students."

Parents can help their students improve as well, she said.

"One of the the biggest thing that the parents can do to support us is to ensure that their students are coming to school, that they're in attendance, that they participate in the tutoring opportunities and the enrichment opportunities that we can provide them," Garduno said.

"And then as that happens, then we're going to be able to show that the individual students scores will go up and the scores of our kids as a whole will go us for our campuses."

Wylie: Ratings don't show complete picture

Wylie ISD officials were pleased with the data behind the campus grades.

"We're extremely proud of what the district as a whole was able to accomplish," Superintendent Joey Light said. "Coming off a COVID year, it was really impressive."

He credited students, teachers and parents for the success.

Wylie High School, East and West junior highs and East Elementary received A ratings. All but Wylie East Junior High had A ratings in 2018-19; Wylie East had not yet opened.

West Intermediate, which is grades 3 and 4, received a B, dropping from an A. Its score accounted for the B ratings for West Elementary and West Early Childhood center, which do not have STAAR testing.

East Elementary includes third and fourth grades, so there is STAAR testing conducted and gets its own rating.

Third grade is when testing begins.

"Grade configurations are different," Light said, comparing the two elementary campuses.

As for West Intermediate, student achievement was 91%, or an A. In fact, all Wylie ISD campuses graded A for achievement.

However, the West Intermediate campus's rating was based on student growth.

"It is very difficult to have high in both," Terry Hagler, assistant superintendent for curriculum and former West Intermediate principal, said of Wylie Intermediate. If the campus has a high score one year, and then the next, how is growth determined?

He noted other campuses in Texas may not have high student achievement but show student growth because significant improvement can be seen.

That is hard to show at West Intermediate because only there are only two grade levels − TEA comparisons simply are from a single class to the next.

"We are very proud of that grade," Hagler said. "That's an outstanding grade."

Hagler said his research has shown only 13 campuses in the state are configured solely with third and fourth grades. Wylie had the highest TEA ratings among those.

Other campuses have multiple grades and growth can be better reflected, he said.

Light said the B, or 87, given to West Intermediate is nothing to be alarmed about.

"It's just outside of A. That gives them a goal to pursue for next year, and one that's within grasp," he said.

Abilene ISD TEA campus ratings

ABILENE ISD SCHOOLS

2021-22 OVERALL RATING

2021-22 OVERALL SCORE

2018-19 OVERALL RATING

Abilene High

B

81

B

Cooper High

C

79

B

Woodson Center for Excellence

B

81

B

ATEMS

A

93

A

Madison Middle

Not Rated

67

C

Mann Middle

Not Rated

64

C

Clack Middle

Not Rated

63

C

Craig Middle

Not Rated

68

C

Alcorta Elementary (Jackson)

Not Rated

69

F

Austin Elementary

C

72

A

Bassetti Elementary

Not Rated

69

C

Bonham Elementary

C

79

F

Bowie Elementary

B

85

C

Dyess Elementary

C

73

B

Martinez

C

73

C

Ortiz Elementary

C

72

D

Purcell Elementary (Johnston)

C

75

C

Stafford Elementary (Lee)

C

77

F

Taylor Elementary

C

71

C

Thomas Elementary

B

80

B

Ward Elementary

C

76

C

Long Early LC

C

75

B

Wylie ISD TEA campus ratings

WYLIE ISD SCHOOLS

2021-22 OVERALL RATING

2021-22 OVERALL SCORE

2018-19 OVERALL RATING

Wylie High

A

93

A

East Junior High

A

91

NOT OPEN

East Elementary

A

90

A

West Junior High

A

93

A

West Elementary

B

87

A

West Intermediate

B

87

B

West EC

B

87

B

TEA campus ratings for some Big Country school districts

2021-22 OVERALL RATING

2021-22 OVERALL SCORE

BAIRD ISD

Baird High

B

87

Baird Elementary

B

85

CLYDE CISD

Clyde High

A

92

Clyde Junior High

B

87

Clyde Intermediate

B

80

Clyde Elementary

B

80

HAWLEY ISD

Hawley High

C

76

Hawley Middle

C

76

Hawley Elementary

C

73

JIM NED CISD

Jim Ned High

A

90

Jim Ned Middle

B

88

Buffalo Gap Elementary

A

94

Lawn Elementary

B

84

MERKEL ISD

Merkel High

B

82

Merkel Middle

C

73

Merkel Elementary

C

76

TRENT ISD

Trent Independent

B

80

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to show that Bonham Elementary improved its rating from an F to a C.

This article originally appeared on Abilene Reporter-News: TEA: Wylie ISD still an A, AISD at C; some campus ratings drop