VISD says changes in leadership will improve ratings

Carolina Astrain By Carolina Astrain

Aug. 10, 2013 at 3:10 a.m.
Updated Aug. 11, 2013 at 3:11 a.m.

The Victoria school district was among the 6.5 percent of Texas school districts and charter schools that did not meet state standards.

But if the state had chosen to use the district's populous Hispanic student group instead of its small number of American Indian students to rate VISD on closing the achievement gaps, or Index 3, it would have made the cut, according to data collected by the district.

However, Texas Education Agency information specialist DeEtta Culbertson said the state does not go by the number of students in the subgroups but the number of tests taken by that group.

"We evaluate performance," Culbertson said. "Not just numbers."

The district had 22 American Indian students who took 62 exams.

Because the group took more than the state standard of 25 exams, it was included in the comparison count.

The district had 5,658 Hispanic students who took 17,952 exams.

The American Indian group was selected for the comparison because it scored one point lower on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness than the Hispanic student group.

Statewide, Index 3 and Index 4 kept most districts that did not meet state standards from making the mark.

Closing the performance gaps was missed by all of the Victoria campuses rated improvement required.

Two of the district's middle schools - Patti Welder Middle School and Stroman Middle School - and seven of its elementary campuses failed to meet state standards.

Changes in leadership, additional instructional coaches and new seven-period schedules at the high schools will be the agents of change for the district, said Carol Tippins, associate director of elementary curriculum.

And the district's state ratings reflect the level of urgency needed for change within the schools, she said.

"It's an accurate assessment," Tippins said. "And that's why the superintendent has made the changes he's made at this point."

Victoria school district has made 14 new principal appointments and moved four former principals into curriculum and human resources positions since last spring.

Of the elementary school campuses that did not meet the state standards, Shields Elementary was the sole campus that missed the mark on all areas of accountability that elementary campuses are rated on.

In 2011, Shields was counted as a recognized campus under the state's former accountability system.

An earlier focus on student learning gaps will help bring the campus back to an acceptable level, Tippins said.

While seven of VISD's elementary schools did not meet state standards, 10 did.

Seven of those earned distinction designation awards.

Cade Middle School also received a distinction designation award for student progress.

Liberty Academy, VISD's alternative education high school, met state standards and received bonus points for college readiness.

Before Sherri Hathaway was appointed the associate director of secondary curriculum, she was the principal of Liberty Academy.

"Liberty's small student-to-teacher ratio is one of their greatest advantages," Hathaway said. "And because they don't offer any extracurriculars, the focus is on academics."

And despite the campuses that did not meet state standards, there is a silver lining for the district this year.

For the first time since 2011, its two high schools, Victoria West and Victoria East, have met the standards set by the state.

"We've made massive improvements in a very short time," said Tami Keeling, school board president. "Everybody in VISD has worked incredibly hard to get here."



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