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Victoria ISD doesn't quite make the grade

By Carolina Astrain
Aug. 8, 2013 at 3:08 a.m.
Updated Aug. 9, 2013 at 3:09 a.m.

SAT course instructor Brian Cruickshanks talks about math testing in a SAT prep course. VISD met state standards in preparing students for postsecondary education, but did not meet standards for closing the learning gap. If VISD had met the state standards as a district, the number of students taking either the SAT/ACT would have given them more points under the state rating system's "Distinction Designations."

The Victoria school district missed meeting state expectations for closing the performance gaps by one point.

Because the district missed that standard, Victoria received an improvement required rating based on test scores from 2013.

But according to unofficial data collected by the district, if the state had used its Hispanic students instead of its American Indian population to determine the achievement gap, the district would have made the cut, said Dionne Hughes, the district's director of assessment and accountability.

The score would have been a 56 instead of a 54 if Hispanics group was used instead, she said. The cut-off point was 55.

"It was so tight, and it would have made a difference with that percentage point," Hughes said.

The closing of performance gaps area is based on the performance rate of the district's economically disadvantaged and the two lowest performing race/ethnicity student groups.

The state chose to rate Victoria based on the performance of African-American and American Indian students groups.

Because of the low number of test-taking American Indians enrolled at VISD - 22 - their test results were unreported by the state and appeared as zeros in its accountability report.

At least 25 students from a specific student group have to take the test to be reported by the state, said Hughes.

The district recorded 62 state exams were taken by American Indians and 17,952 exams were taken by Hispanics.

"Unfortunately, the numbers did not fall on our side," said Robert Jaklich, VISD superintendent. "But we know with our new alignments, positioning and additional personnel, we have everything in line for future success."

The district has already begun discussing if it will appeal the rating, said Jaklich.

"We still need to go through all of the final results and determine if we even have an opportunity for appeal," Jaklich said.

Data correction would only be valid through the appeals process if there was an error in the data caused by calculations made by a testing contractor or agency, said DeEtta Culbertson, Texas Education Agency information specialist.

"We will review those appeals on a one-by-one basis sometime by early November," Culbertson said.

While VISD did not meet the state standard in that category, it did exceed expectations in student achievement, student progress and college readiness.

And for the first time in two years, the district can tout its two high schools meet state standards.

In the 2011 report under the state's former rating system, Victoria West High School and Victoria East High School were both deemed academically unacceptable.

"This is our biggest celebration," Hughes said. "We've worked very hard to get to this place."

Laurynn Garcia, an incoming East High School sophomore, said she was hoping her campus would receive a good score to improve her chances at being accepted to Duke University.

The 15-year-old student took an SAT prep course this summer to improve her chances of getting into an university with a good medical school.

"I'm actually surprised because it always seemed like we were really low," Garcia said. "It's good to see that we've made a lot of progress. And when other students see that we are doing better, it'll help motivate them at school."

If VISD had met the standards as a district, the number of students taking either the SAT/ACT would have given them more points under the rating system's distinction designations.

The VISD campuses that met state standards and earned at least one distinction award were Cade Middle School, DeLeon Elementary School, Dudley G/T Magnet School, Mission Valley Elementary School, Schorlemmer Elementary School, Torres Elementary School, Vickers Elementary School and William Wood Elementary School.

"We are heartbroken, but this is not about us," Hughes said. "It's about what we need to do to get our kids to the next level."

With at least seven new principals in the mix, an extended school day schedule for the high schools and additional staff added to the district's curriculum team, the superintendent said he is confident about the future.

"We're so excited about getting school started with all these factors going into play," Jaklich said. "It's time to prove to everyone who we are and what we can do."



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