The steps being taken to improve school and district performance were discussed at the September meeting of the Commerce ISD Board of Trustees Monday night.
The board introduced Hannah Farrell as Commerce ISD’s new District Coordinator of School Improvement, which was mandated by the state following the recent A-F Accountability Ratings released by the Texas Education Agency. The TEA gives schools and district’s letter grades based off of STAAR test scores, graduation rates, college, career and military readiness and more. Any schools receiving either a “D” or “F” grade must be subject to higher scrutiny to improve performance.
In the first campus letter grade ratings released in August, A.C. Williams Elementary School and Commerce Middle School were rated a “D” and “F,” respectively.
The hiring of the DCSI was one of the mandatory steps taken by the district, and Farrell will oversee the efforts to improve test scores. Farrell will be primarily handling the CMS campus while another employee, Sheila Waits, will oversee ACW.
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Patricia Tremmel and Farrell laid out the work that has already been done and the work that will begin soon to the board. According to Tremmel, employees have received trainings on the Effective Schools Framework, which is the basis of the Targeted Improvement Plan, an in-depth self assessment that lays out the framework for how each campus will improve. Also, interim STAAR assessments will be held at each campus to gauge what areas will need to be focused on for the next STAAR testing in 2020.
Farrell detailed the Effective Schools Framework, which is broken down into five sections or “levers.” The levers are: Strong Leadership and Planning, Effective Well-Supported Teachers, Positive School Culture, High-Quality Curriculum, and Effective Instruction.
Farrell explained that the campuses had to assess themselves on each lever to see what progress is being made. From those, the three weakest levers were chosen, and those will be the focus of the Targeted Improvement Plan, which needs to be submitted to the TEA by Sept. 27. The agency will send back the draft with comments or changes, and a final version of the plan is expected to be approved by the trustees in November.
Trustee Dr. LaVelle Hendricks expressed his appreciation for the work being done.
“Obviously a lot of work has gone into this already,” Hendricks said. “I applaud you for your efforts.”
Also, work is being done to improve literacy at the Commerce Elementary School and ACW campuses. The district will begin implementing “Project READ,” which the state proposes all kindergarten through grade three teachers be trained in by 2021. Cari Sturch, coordinator of elementary education for Commerce ISD, presented the findings on reading levels in the district. According to Sturch, as many as 61-percent of all third graders in CISD are reading at or above grade-level, while as a few as 29-percent are doing the same in fifth grade.
The board held a presentation of grant money from the Commerce Schools Educational Enrichment Foundation, which gave a total of $47,708.41 to 21 different teachers and administrators for 17 different projects around the district. In its history, CSEEF has given more than $500,000 for innovative initiatives within the district.
11 members were appointed to the CISD School Health Advisory Council. The members are CISD staff members Kathy Myers, Alison Walker, Joe Venable, Patricia Tremmel, and parents Anna Black, Vanessa Clark, Shannon Shannon, Sarah Staton, Shanda Harris, Lisa Gossett and Tiffany Storm.
Enrollment was up 15 students from this point last year, with a total enrollment of 1,551 students.
The next meeting of the Commerce ISD Board of Trustees is scheduled for Oct. 21, with public session scheduled for 7 p.m.