By Dana Delgado
When the Texas Education Agency recently released district and campus 2017 Accountability Ratings, the Liberty Hill Independent School District found itself ahead of the game with a plan already in place to further boost its standing and performance.
Ongoing district review of relevant data sources including STAAR scores released earlier in August had revealed areas that needed to be addressed and areas of excellence. As a result, Toni Hicks, the school district’s Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Accountability, said the “Met Standard” for all of its schools as well as the district on the 2017 Accountability Ratings came as no surprise.
“There’s reason to celebrate and we’re making progress, but we need to be making at least a year’s progress every year,” said Hicks. “Progress is the one thing that stood out to me in the report.”
The 2017 Accountability Ratings were near images of the 2016 results when the district and all its campuses also received “Met Standard” ratings. LHISD compared fairly well with districts with similar demographics like Wimberley ISD and Dripping Springs ISD.
To receive the “Met Standard” ratings, the district and each campus had to meet targets on three indexes: (1) student achievement or (2) student progress, and (3) closing performance gaps, and (4) postsecondary readiness, which is comprised primarily of STAAR scores and graduation rates. LHISD not only met their targets on all four indexes but substantially exceeded them. As a school district, however, LHISD did not earn any “Distinction Designations” in specific performance areas.
Hicks noted that the glaring areas of concern were writing and reading, particularly for Hispanic students and students in special education and added that gains still needed to be made in overall student progress and the closing of performance gaps among the various segments of the student population. Hicks said that the district was able to meet the minimum state requirements but holds itself to a much higher standard.
“We want all our students to be at mastery or working towards mastery,” said Hicks.
Mastery is the state’s label for the highest individual performance level.
“Our goal is to teach the standards as written in all content areas and focus on higher levels,” she added.
Earlier this summer, Hicks announced some specific steps taken by the district to address some areas of need. The plan called for targeted training for teachers, increased collaboration among campus and district educators, the development of the district’s own curriculum, and the introduction of new writing programs. In addition, the district is moving to re-engage parents. PTOs (parent teacher organizations) will be operational at each campus, surveys will be conducted, and parents will have access to the district’s curriculum year-at-a-glance plan bundled by six weeks on the district website. Furthermore, the district will continue to enhance its inclusive initiative for special education students since they are now required to be assessed on the same state-mandated instrument as non-special education students.
Individual campus Accountability Results were similar to the district’s report. Bill Burden Elementary met all its targets with remarkable showing in student achievement and postsecondary readiness and earned a “Distinction Designation” in academic achievement in mathematics.
Liberty Hill Intermediate School received one “Distinction Designation” in academic achievement in ELA/reading and also met all its performance targets with a particularly strong showing in student achievement.
Liberty Hill Junior High, with a reported enrollment of 564 students in grades 7-8, also reached and exceeded its targets with a significant showing in student achievement where it received an index score of 84 while its target was 60. This campus, however, did not earn any “Distinction Designations” and had the lowest “System Safeguards” percent score (79 percent) of all the district campuses on the number and percentage of indicators met but still exceeded the state standard.
On the other hand, Liberty Hill High School had the highest district percent score under “System Safeguards” by meeting 32 out of 34 performance indicators for 94 percent. It surpassed all its performance indexes with its strongest showings in student achievement and postsecondary readiness with impressive scores of 88 and 81, respectively. The 9-12 campus earned one “Distinction Designation” in science.
Liberty Hill Elementary was not evaluated on this accountability report because it was only a PK-1 campus last school year.
For the 2017-18 academic year, all campuses will be assessed under the state’s accountability system, but Hicks explained that the system will likely be undergoing some changes. House Bill 22 included revision of the four performance indexes to three domains and the implementation of A-F Ratings based on overall performance and performance in each domain.