Fourteen Fort Worth campuses are expected to receive “improvement required” state ratings this year when 2017 accountability ratings are released — a number that is down from last year’s 22 low-performing schools, according to preliminary data.
Two of the schools are chronic low performers and put the Fort Worth district in a precarious position with the state. Under a state law that goes into effect this year, the Texas Education Agency could appoint managers to run the Fort Worth school district in 2018 if just one low-performing school fails to meet passing standards for five consecutive years.
“It only takes one school to shut everything down,” said Ashley Paz, Fort Worth school board member.
It’s a problem facing other urban school districts, including Houston, which this week was warned by the TEA to make improvements at 10 schools or face takeover by the state.
87,000 students in the Fort Worth school district.
In November 2016, the TEA listed 19 schools statewide that have been low performers for five consecutive years and 52 schools for four years straight.
While the 2017 accountability ratings ratings won’t be released until Tuesday, some districts, including Fort Worth, have released preliminary results. Besides the 14 low-performing schools, 116 are expected to be rated as “met standard,” according to the news release.
“This news represents a 36 percent decrease in the number of schools currently on the state’s improvement required list,” Superintendent Kent Scribner said in a news release. “While there is still work to be done, we cannot overlook the fact that 89 percent of our schools are achieving or exceeding the state standard.”
Paz said that when she first joined the school board there were about 30 low-performing schools.
“This kind of growth speaks a lot to the leadership of Dr. Scribner,” Paz said, explaining that he is building a culture in which mediocrity is no longer acceptable.
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‘We have to own the gaps’
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The Fort Worth school district has long focused on strategies to improve the chronically low-performing schools and while making gains at some, it has seen drops at others.
District officials are working on a leadership program at five low-performing campuses, including White and Logan. The district has also put attention and resources on early childhood literacy as too many students are not reading on grade level. There is also a focus on middle school math.
Barbara Griffith, spokeswoman for the district, said the leadership focus goes beyond simply being a program because White, Logan “are actually new schools.”
“This is a pretty comprehensive reconstitution of both of those schools,” she said, explaining that White and Logan plus Forest Oak Middle, Mitchell Boulevard Elementary and Como Elementary are transitioning to leadership academies complete with new teachers and added resources.
Christene Moss, who represents District 3, said administrators and trustees have taken better ownership of the district’s low performers. Logan and White elementary schools are located in District 3.
“We have to own the gaps,” Moss said.
And district officials are acutely aware of House Bill 1842, the law passed in 2015 that allows the education commissioner to close chronically low-performing schools and/or replace school boards that oversee districts with campuses that don’t make the grade.
The school district has been working with the TEA in an effort to avoid such penalties.
“We are going to go out and fix these schools because morally it is the right thing to do,” said Tobi Jackson, Fort Worth school board.
But she added that “HB 1842 seems like a very inequitable bill. ... Fear tactics are not the way to get things done.”
When the official ratings are released on Tuesday more than 8,600 schools in 1,200 school districts as well as charter schools will receive either a “met standard” or “improvement required” rating. The ratings take into account several factors: passing rates on the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR), student progress, closing achievement gaps and college and career readiness.
Changes to the rating system will go into effect next school year, when the state will give school districts a grade of A-F while the campuses will receive either “met standard” or “improvement required. In 2019, the A-F is expected to be fully phased in so school districts and campuses will receive letter grades.
Fort Worth’s low performers
The 14 Fort Worth schools that are expected to receive “improvement required” ratings by the TEA next week:
6th grade centers
West Handley, Carroll Peak, George C. Clarke, Como, Maude Logan, Harlon Beal, John T. White, Mitchell Boulevard, Maudrie Walton, Sunrise-McMillian, Clifford Davis and I.M. Terrell Elementary (school closed and students were moved to another campus).
Fourteen-year-old Will Lourcey of Trinity Valley School participated in the National Spelling Bee for the first time and is having a ball despite falling short of making the championship round. (Special to the Star-Telegram/Wen-Yee Lee)
Mariachi Espuelas de Plata from North Side High School in Fort Worth performs at the 2016 Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza in Mexico City.
This report contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.