District boosts completion rate, scores, earns recognized rating


July 30, 2010 at 2:30 a.m.

Victoria's improved high school helped earn the school district a recognized rating for the first time.

The district improved its rating to 84.9 percent and met a required improvement standard by the Texas Education Association for the recognized status.

"School people and community people rallied to bring the dropout rate down and help more students earn their high school diploma," Superintendent Bob Moore said Friday. "With today's ratings release, we see that hard work has paid high rewards. And, the rewards will continue to be seen as better-educated students enter the work force and become more productive."

Last year, the district was rated unacceptable because of low high school completion rates for students who were economically disadvantaged.

Raising the rating

At the start of the school year, the district formed a task force and tracked down 339 students who would have counted as dropouts or non-completers. Many of the students had failed the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test or did not have enough credits to graduate on time.

"That was a big push to get students back," said Shelia Gann, district student success administrator.

The district ran ads in the Victoria Advocate and on television. Administrators visited students' homes and hired a private investigator to find students.

The district offered night classes and credit recovery at Profit Magnet High School along with daycare and small classes to entice students back.

"You have to have programs in place that say it's going to be worth your time for you to come back to school," said Diane Boyett, district director of communications. "Because otherwise they're not even going to bother."

The state gives students four years and two months to graduate. If the student re-enrolls for a fifth year, then the student is not counted as a dropout.

New standards, new measures

Standards for the recognized rating were stricter this year, according to TEA. The new standards require 80 percent of all students and each student sub-group to pass the TAKS, compared with 75 percent in the past.

The district showed improvement in science and math, especially among Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students. The two groups earned academically acceptable ratings in science, but with the Texas Projection Measure were boosted to recognized. The new measure gives extra credit to schools based on the idea failing students will pass the TAKS in the future. All student in the district earned the exemplary rating in science.

With the stricter standards the school or district must achieve an 85 percent completion rate and must now have an annual seventh- and eighth-grade dropout rate of 1.8 percent or below. The district met the completion rate by improving its rate 17 percentage points in economically disadvantaged students and 6 points overall.

Keeping the momentum

Next year, the challenge to raise the completion rate remains.

"I think this will be an ongoing issue of students who do not feel successful leaving school," Boyett said.

Every year, a new group of students will be evaluated for its completion rate.

Boyett said she believes the new high schools with smaller learning environments will help administers keep track of students who might be at risk of dropping out. The task force for recovering potential dropouts will also continue.

"Next year, those numbers still have to improve for our graduation, for our completion rates," she said. "You can't rest anywhere in there. You can't stop it. Once you get the momentum going you can't just sit back."



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