Liberty Hill schools receive provisional ratings under State’s new system

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By Dana Delgado

After having “Met Standard” in its last official rating in 2016 by the Texas Education Agency (TEA), the Liberty Hill Independent School District received a mixed profile of provisional scores under the State’s new “work-in-progress” A-F Accountability Rating System, which has drawn statewide criticism and calls for repeal this week.

“The goal is to have transparency and to provide parents with a better understanding of schools’ performances, but there are still some flaws in the new system which hopefully, the Legislature will address,” said Toni Hicks, LHISD Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Accountability. “There are just too many variables. It will be interesting to see what happens with this legislative session.”

Under the new accountability rating system, schools and districts receive letter grades, A through F. The Texas Education Agency emphasized in a Dec. 30, 2016 report to the Legislature that the recently released A-F ratings are for informational purposes only, that no inferences should be drawn from these ratings, and that districts and school communities should use the results to prepare for the official implementation during the 2017-2018 school year with formal ratings scheduled to be released August 2018.

The system change, passed by the 84th Texas Legislature in 2015, is a departure from the “met standard,” “met alternative standard,” and “improvement required” ratings given to school districts and campuses in recent years.

Despite the State’s caution of the ratings’ intent, school districts across the state are closely scrutinizing their scores along with those of neighboring districts.

Under the A-F rating system, LHISD’s provisional scores, ranged from B’s to D’s in four categories or domains evaluated. A fourth category, Community and Student Engagement, was not included in this trial assessment but is expected to be included in the upcoming official implementation.

As a district, Liberty Hill received a B in Student Achievement, a C in Student Progress, a C in Closing Performance Gaps, and a D in Post-Secondary Readiness. These scores are a composite of the ratings received by its respective campuses. Under the standards developed by the TEA, only letter grades A through C are deemed acceptable.

In comparison, Leander ISD was rated B, A, D, C in the respective domains while Round Rock ISD received scores of A, A, C, C and Georgetown ISD’s ratings were C, D, D, D.

Districts of similar size to Liberty Hill like Elgin, Taylor and Salado received scores of F, D, D, D; C, C, C, D and B, C, F, B respectively. Other school districts in the area including Burnet and Marble Falls received scores of D, F, D, C and C, C, C, C accordingly.

At the campus level, Liberty Hill Junior High School outscored all Liberty Hill campuses with a rating of B in Student Achievement, an A in Student Progress, and a C in both Closing Performance Gaps and Post-Secondary Readiness.

Bill Burden Elementary School received scores of B, D, D, B in the various domains while the Intermediate School was rated B, C, D, C. The High School’s scores were B, D, C, D.

“We’re never satisfied and are working towards doing better and reaching our goals,” said Hicks. “We are proud of our teachers and students for all that they are doing and have identified some areas we want to strengthen like providing more resources.”

Hicks added that the school district is also developing a campaign to address attendance at all grade levels because of its importance and impact on student achievement.

Three of the categories under the new A-F Accountability Rating System, Student Achievement, Student Progress, and Closing Performance Gaps, are directly tied to the scores on the state’s mandated assessments.

The category involving Post-Secondary Readiness includes a range of indicators according to the TEA report submitted to the Legislature. At high school, this domain’s score is determined by a variety of factors including graduation rate, the percentage of students graduating with a higher level graduation plan and the percentage of students who graduate ready for college, career, or the military, as evidenced by SAT/ACT/AP/IB/dual credit, an industry credential or appropriate CTE course sequence, or military enlistment. At the junior high, intermediate and elementary levels, dropout rates and attendance will be the basis for determining Post-Secondary Readiness.

With the trial run of the A-F Accountability Rating System complete, all eyes now turn to the 85th Legislature in the coming weeks and months to see whether the new system will be implemented as scheduled, revamped, repealed or replaced by the 2017-2018 school year.

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