LHISD addresses accountability ratings

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

The grades are out, and Liberty Hill ISD brought an A home to the community, placing it among the top 25 in the state for last year.

But even with the high rating, district leadership says there is much more to Liberty Hill schools than that letter.

“We certainly are, as a district, very proud of our A rating,” said Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction, and Accountability Dr. Toni Hicks. “Our A rating is not the only thing that’s great in our district. We excel in so many areas. It is not the only thing that indicates that we are an A district.”

Three performance areas – student achievement, school progress and closing the gaps – were put together to determine the overall A grade. In student achievement the district scored 92 for an A, with a B in both school progress and closing the gaps at 85 and 89 respectively.

The Texas Education Agency says “Student Achievement shows how much students know and are able to do at the end of the school year.” School progress “shows how students perform over time and how that growth compares to similar schools,” and closing the gap “tells us how well different populations of students in a district are performing.”

Depending on the grade level, student achievement is determined by different factors.

“For elementary and middle school it is simply did students meet the passing standard for the STAAR test, that’s all student achievement is,” Hicks said. “However at high school you’re also factoring in college, career and military readiness and graduation rates.”

This was the second year for district letter grades, and the second A rating for Liberty Hill as a district. It was the first year for individual campus grades, with the high school and junior high each receiving an overall grade of A, the Intermediate school and Rancho Sienna Elementary each earning a B rating, and Bill Burden Elementary and Liberty Hill Elementary with a C. An A rating is considered exemplary, a B is recognized and a C is acceptable.

“While these are the ratings by the state and C is acceptable, that is not our standard and we support our campuses and expect all our campuses to be an A, and that’s the work to be done on a couple of our campuses,” Hicks said, adding that steps have already been taken to pinpoint areas to focus on to boost the two campuses with a C rating overall.

“This helps us to have a more laser focus for what we can do to support our campuses and ensure high levels of academic achievement,” she said, pointing out that district-wide, there are many resources to be pooled for success.

“We’re very much a community. Where there are strengths we pull from those to share with others and help others come to that standard. Even though we now have three elementaries, we are very much still one. Even though they are separated in proximity, they are not separated in thinking or in practice. They come together frequently to plan together and share with one another.”

While the ratings were not presented as grades for campuses last year, districts are able to compare numbers from last year to this year, which is another helpful tool for Liberty Hill.

“The high school had a B last year and went up to an A,” Hicks said. “Student achievement stayed the same, school progress went up this year and closing the gap went up four points, so you can definitely see improvements.”

Liberty Hill Junior High built on its success from last year.

“The junior high increased its score in three domains with two percentage points in overall, maintaining the top score in student achievement, going from a B to an A in school progress and increasing seven points in closing the gap. It also received two distinction designations, top 25 percent of comparative schools for academic growth and being in the top 25 percent of comparative schools for closing the gap.”

The Intermediate campus saw an increase in scores in all four domains.

“There was an increase of five percentage points in overall, moving from a B to an A in student achievement, increasing nine percentage points in school progress and improving from a C to a B in closing the gap with an increase of 10 percentage points.”

Rancho Sienna increased in all four domains, with a four percent increase overall, and improved from a B to an A in student achievement and from a C to a B in closing the gap.

Bill Burden increased in the overall rating and student achievement, with a C rating across the board in all four domains. Liberty Hill Elementary had a C overall, with a B in student achievement and a D in school progress and closing the gap.

“While Liberty Hill Elementary did make a C, which is according to the state proficient, we did note a decline in both the school progress domain and closing the gap domain,” Hicks said. “When we received the results in July, Mrs. (Heather) Collison and I sat down together and worked with the campus leadership team to outline a plan for increased instructional support, so we do have a plan to assist the elementary school in moving that forward.”

The school district has mountains of data to use in focusing in on areas where improvement is needed, but Hicks said there is more to the issue than scores.

“You’re dealing with kids and all of them come with different background experiences and different challenges they bring to the table,” Hicks said. “So yes, we can address it through standards and design and delivery of the instruction, but we also have to have that element of understanding the student and building a relationship with the student and that’s a culmination of all of those pieces that really maximize our learning environment.”

A lot of different factors play into the success of a campus overall, according to Hicks.

“I don’t think you can base a decision on whether or not your school is effective on one test,” she said. “I think you are looking at a variety of data points and the environment your child is in to determine if that is an appropriate placement for your child. I’m very proud of our campuses and our teachers for the relationships they build and the environment they create. They are always finding the best approach and finding creative ways to reach all students so they thrive in the classroom.”

Anyone seeking more detailed information on the ratings can visit www.txschools.gov and find a wide variety of data from across the state.

“You can research by campus, by district, you can even research it by region,” Hicks said of the site. “This is for parents if they want to drill down to specific information related to their child they can see historical data and how they rate according to their peers.”
As far as Liberty Hill’s ratings, Hicks said there is always work to be done and the district is already focusing in on areas to improve.

“We’re going to celebrate our rating and celebrate our students and celebrate our staff and the achievements we have,” she said. “But we also know, even with that rating, on all of our campuses there are areas for improvement and we as a district are dedicated to supporting our staff in making those improvements.”

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