RISD aces accountability tests

Campuses meet all STAAR performance indexes
Reporter Editor

That “target” which had been on the back of the Rockdale ISD for two years is gone.

New state accountability scores, released Thursday by the Texas Education Association, showed Rockdale met standards in all four “performance indexes” based on the State of Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (STAAR) tests.

Those indexes are student achievement, student progress, closing performance gaps and postsecondary readiness.

There’s even a extra “bonus” for the Rockdale ISD. Rockdale Junior-High School received a “distinction” honor for its scores in reading/English Language Arts.

That’s doubly sweet for the district. It was the junior-high which was rated “unacceptable” two years ago, based on the old TAKS scores.

Those 2011 ratings, which RISD was unable to get rid of until Thursday, kept getting the district placed on various lists purporting to show low-performing schools. Many people failed to realize those rankings didn’t represent anything new but were recyclings of the old 2011 scores.

And because there were no accountability ratings in 2012, part of the TAKS to STAAR transition, Rockdale didn’t have any way to get rid of the 2011 stigma.

(In 2011, Rockdale High School was also listed as unacceptable but administrators maintain that was due to a clerical error in which the incorrect race of a student was entered.)

FOCUS— Pam Kaufmann, assistant superintendent for instruction and administration, welcomed the new ratings.

“We knew we’d been making progress,” she said. “ This is a great group of people in the Rockdale ISD and it’s good to know that our hard work has paid off.”

Kaufmann said from the moment the 2011 problems became evident the district moved to focus on specific areas and immediately began to make progress.

“ We have absolutely been focused on this for two years,” she said. “We looked at the data, trained our teachers and went on from there.”

Kaufmann said RISD’s philosophy was to “empower” teachers to be a part of the solution.”

“ We wanted to hear from them,” she said. “We asked them ‘what in your classroom are kids struggling with and how do you think we can fix it’?”

FORWARD— STAAR tests don’t start until the third grade so campuses with only grades K- 2— Mi lam County has two, Rockdale Elementary and Ben Milam Elementary in Cameron—aren’t affected by the ratings.

“But these good scores are still a district-wide effort,” Kaufmann said. “Our efforts have been aligned. The intermediate (grades 3-5) builds on the elementary and it works like that all the way through high school.”

Because of the 2011 ratings, Rockdale ISD received a “monitor” to assist the district’s improvement plan.

It will take one more year of good state scores before that requirement gets removed.

Kaufmann said next year’s TEA rat ings format wi ll be the same as those which were released on Thursday.

“They may add some categories but the ‘met-improvement required’ ratings system will remain for 2014,” Kaufmann said.

After that, it appears the ratings system format is up in the air. Some education experts are forecasting a return to the old unacceptable-acceptable-recognized exemplary system.

Kaufmann isn’t making any predictions on format. “Whatever they’re saying right now for 2015, only one thing is certain. It’s going to change 10 times before we get there,” she said.

AYP—In past years the federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) ratings, also known as No Child Left Behind, have followed the TEA ratings by one week.

That’s not the case this year with AYP ratings delayed to October.

Virtually every school district in Texas is dreading the AYP announcements. The federal program has been increasing its standards to the point where every indicator must be 100 percent in 2014 to meet standards.

No Milam County campus met AYP standards in 2012. ( The two K-2 elementaries weren’t rated for the same reasons listed above and Milano High School didn’t test enough sophomores to receive a rating.)

Kaufmann notes the state is negotiating with federal authorities for a waiver on 2013 AYP. “I think the state is counting very heavily on getting that waiver,” she said.

FUTURE— Rockdale wi l l enjoy its “ liberation” from the 2011 scores, but won’t slow down in its quest for still better scores.

“Okay, we got out of there. We’ve done that,” Kaufmann said. “Now, we’ve got to keep moving forward.”

“Our goal is to involve the students and parents,” she said. “We want to engage our students even more.”

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