News

Monitor ‘to help’ schools

By MIKE BROWN
Reporter Editor


AND WHICH STATE WOULD THIS BE?—No doubt about it, pardner, Eyed Joe, recite facts about the state, even present homages to the just look at the cowboy hats. The musical play “Texas,” enacted by bluebonnet and pecan trees. Other events during Public School Week first graders in the elementary gym, is traditionally the final event of included breakfasts for moms, dads and grandparents and several Public School Week in Rockdale. The gym was packed with parents, evenings devoted to academic pursuits. All campuses participated grandparents and friends to watch the youngsters perform the Cotton- during the week. 
Reporter/Mike Brown AND WHICH STATE WOULD THIS BE?—No doubt about it, pardner, Eyed Joe, recite facts about the state, even present homages to the just look at the cowboy hats. The musical play “Texas,” enacted by bluebonnet and pecan trees. Other events during Public School Week first graders in the elementary gym, is traditionally the final event of included breakfasts for moms, dads and grandparents and several Public School Week in Rockdale. The gym was packed with parents, evenings devoted to academic pursuits. All campuses participated grandparents and friends to watch the youngsters perform the Cotton- during the week. Reporter/Mike Brown Dr. Nancy Vaughan who is “monitoring” two campuses in Rockdale Independent School District for the next three school years, doesn’t mince words on her task or her goals.

She’s here to help the high school and junior-high campuses make better scores on the tests which will determine their state and federal rankings and she’s supposed to look the people she’s helping in the eye and give them the truth.

“If I feel like they’re blowing smoke my job is to tell them ‘I’m not going there’,” she told The Reporter in a candid interview last week.

“But no one’s blowing smoke in the Rockdale ISD,” she said. Dr. Vaughan has nothing but praise for the district’s dedication and willingness to work to get better.

RESOURCE—It’s the first time Rockdale ISD has ever had a monitor and the situation stems from last year’s Texas Education Agency ratings, which saw the high school and junior-high campus given “unacceptable” marks.

Ratings are derived mostly from TAKS test scores and the two RISD campuses were judged deficient in some “sub group” scores even though overall TAKS scores actually went up.
District ‘monitor’ Dr. Nancy Vaughan confers with Pam Kaufmann, Rockdale ISD assistant superintendent for instruction and administration, during a visit to the Central Administration Building. 
Reporter/Mike Brown District ‘monitor’ Dr. Nancy Vaughan confers with Pam Kaufmann, Rockdale ISD assistant superintendent for instruction and administration, during a visit to the Central Administration Building. Reporter/Mike Brown

(RISD as a whole has missed the federal “no child left behind” standards for four years but that’s a different set of criteria, albeit based on the same scores.

A separate study of the district has been made on that front. Results of the study have yet to be released.)

So the district had to find and hire a monitor, an outside source. That turned out to be Dr. Vaughan, now a consultant after a long career in education which included a superintendency and a long stint with the TEA.

“I’m a resource, a new pair of eyes to look at the Rockdale ISD,” she said. “I’m looking at all the systems and processes. The goal is to make things better.”

“I’m not here to find blame,” she said.

TEAMWORK—In fact, Dr. Vaughan is part of a Campus Improvement Team and is paired with Pam Kaufmann, assistant superintendent for instruction and administration in the RISD.

While their goal is certainly to improve test scores, both are on the same page when it comes to the ultimate goal of education.

“We have to meet the needs of the kids and also ‘play the game’ (test scores) at the same time,” Kaufmann said.

An example of what she’s focusing on.

“The junior-high got its (unacceptable) rating because of science in one grade level,” Dr. Vaughan said. “Now that’s not because of one teacher. Science is taught all the way down through every level. We need to come up with strategies so every classroom does its part (toward bringing the scores up.)”

‘YEAR OFF’—Dr. Vaughan is on hand at a complex time.

The old TAKS tests are giving way to the new STAAR exams. Because of the transition there won’t be any TEA accountability ratings this August.

That means Dr. Vaughan will need to be affiliated with the Rockdale ISD for two more terms beyond this one so the effects of RISD’s school improvement plan can be measured.

She makes periodic reports to the school board.

“What I’m finding in Rockdale is a willingness to implement whatever is necessary (to improve),” she said.

“ We’re learning,” she said. “We’ve already learned we can’t teach the way we’ve always taught. Kids don’t learn the way they did 10 or 20 years ago.”

And the dual, state and federal, accountability systems make the situation even more complex.

“There are situations when the two systems—TEA and no child left behind—don’t agree on the same criteria,” she said.

Kaufmann noted there are even situations where the RISD has to pick between options which would help it with TEA ratings, and harm no child left behind scores or have the opposite effect.

What does the Rockdale ISD do when that happens.

“What we’re always focused on,” Kaufmann said. “We do what we think is best for the kids.”


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