Some improvement was made and some regression was discovered when the annual A-F Accountability ratings were released by the Texas Education Agency last week.
For the past few years, the TEA has been adjusting its new ratings system. Previously, districts and campuses were simply given one of two ratings, “Met Standard” or “Improvement Required.” A few years ago, changes were put in place to better establish the rating of public schools, and a letter grade system was implemented. Now districts would get a report card just like their students.
The basis of the ratings were STAAR test scores, and for high schools, graduation rates and College, Career and Military readiness were also taken into account.
While the district has been graded with a letter, this is the first year that individual campuses received the letter grade as well.
For the Commerce Independent School District, the ratings were a sign of accomplishment this year, with the district improving its rating from a “C” to a “B,” and the score increasing from 74 to 81. Broken down, CISD received Bs in Student Achievement and School Progress, but a C in closing the gaps.
Commerce High School also showed improvement, increasing their score from a 73 to an 81. This is partially due to a high score in College, Career and Military Readiness, with CHS receiving a 91 in that category. CHS also improved in all facets except for graduation rate, which is taken from three years worth of data.
However, not all schools improved. A.C. Williams Elementary School and Commerce Middle School both seeing their ratings drop. ACW was given a “D” while CMS was given an “F.”
ACW saw their score drop from a 78 to a 64. Data shows that in STAAR testing, only 29 percent of students meet the grade level standard across all subjects. For reference, the state target for meeting the grade level in reading is 44 percent.
CMS fared worse, being hit especially hard in the “Closing the Gaps” category. The school did not meet the standard on any of the 18 indicators, which are student groups divided up by ethnicity, economically disadvantaged status, etc., that it qualified for. Some standards were met, such as the standard for former special education students, but there were not enough students in the indicator to qualify.
Commerce Elementary School was not rated since its students do not take the STAAR test. It shares a rating with A.C. Williams.
The Commerce Journal sat down with CISD Superintendent Charlie Alderman to discuss the ratings this week. He said that the ratings are a mixed bag.
“I am happy with some and disappointed with others,” Alderman said.
Alderman had been critical of the ratings in the past, stating that they were too opaque and rated poorer districts worse on average. This year he says that the ratings are a bit easier to read, and that the district has the data it needs to improve.
“Before, the standards that we needed to meet kept changing drastically every year, it was like playing football when you don’t know where the end zone is going to be,” Alderman said. “But now we have clearer data for each campus and we know what we need to do.”
ACW and CMS were given a “Targeted Support Designation,” which means that the district must hire a District Coordinator for School Improvement to oversee intervention measures and report to the state on progress. Alderman said that the hire must be made by Aug. 30.
The district is already hard at work with plans to improve. Alderman says that the schools are already building more instruction time into the schedule to ensure that students are mastering subjects, and that he and other administrators will be spending days out of the week at each campus to help with changes.
“We are not going to leave our principals out to dry on this,” Alderman said.
The Superintendent says he hopes the Fountas and Pannell literacy program instituted last year at Commerce Elementary School will bolster reading mastery with the new third grade students at ACW, which will continue down the line each year as the students grow older.
“This is a continual process,” Alderman said. “There is no silver bullet to solve this.”
To view the district and campus ratings, visit txschools.gov and search for Commerce ISD.