The Texas Education Agency has given an "unacceptable" rating to the Ector County Independent School District, but district officials said Thursday that there are plenty of bright spots among the "brutal facts."
The good news was that four Odessa elementary schools received an exemplary rating from the TEA, Superintendent Hector Mendez said, while 17 elementary campuses were listed as recognized. Bowie Junior High also reached recognized status, the first secondary campus in ECISD to earn that distinction.
The bad news was the district as a whole being rated unacceptable, which Mendez attributed to the economically disadvantaged subgroup’s high school completion rate falling below the 75 percent level required. Both OHS and Permian joined the district in receiving an unacceptable rating for the same reason.
The district and the high school campuses were all rated acceptable last year. Mendez said statewide results were not available for comparison.
This was the first year the high school completion rate counted in accountability ratings. The completion rate numbers used for the accountability figures are actually from the 2007-’08 school year, while test scores from the 2008-’09 year were used. The 2010 ratings will take into account any improvement in the completion rate from the school year that ended this May.
The district overall had 80 percent of students complete four years of high school, a 5 percent jump from 2007. But, the economically disadvantaged subgroup actually dropped from 2007 to 2008, falling from 65 percent to 62 percent staying in school.
Superintendent Hector Mendez said the district has some clear problems.
"This is a rallying call. These are the brutal facts," he said.
Some more bad news came from the junior high level, with Bonham, Crockett and Hood all declared academically unacceptable by the state for science TAKS performance by both Hispanic and economically disadvantaged subgroups. District officials say the acceptable standard for science increased by 5 percent, and another "forgiveness" measure allowing an acceptable rating in some situations within 10 percent of that measure through clear progress was chiseled down to just 5 percent.
"That means effectively we had to do 10 percentage points better," Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Operations Wendy Hines said.
The best news was at the elementary level where 17 campuses were recognized and four — Ireland, Barbara Jordan, Blackshear and Reagan — were exemplary. In the past, only Reagan has reached that level in ECISD.
Nimitz, Ector and the remaining elementary schools were all rated acceptable.
Hines emphasized improvement in tested areas. In eight of the nine areas of junior high TAKS testing, students in ECISD did improve. The drop of one point was in eighth grade reading. At the high school level, five of the eight areas improved, with math and science decreasing in all areas except 11th grade.
Mendez said the district will work to address areas of weakness by bringing principals together to discuss what works at campuses like Bowie.
That school’s principal Denise Shetter said she believes the success is making sure students have a reason to try. She cited the "got five" theme of the campus, which asks students to just get five more questions right than they did last year.
"It makes it very concrete for them," she said.
The superintendent said specific strategies will follow, but the results give ECISD specific areas of focus. He said some existing changes like adding AVID to the elementary level and bringing in new staffers called interventionists who work with smaller groups of students on elementary campuses. He said the district could eventually hire people to do similar work at the secondary level.
Permian principal Roy Garcia said the school completion rate went up, as did scores. But, a score of 71 percent completion wasn’t enough for Permian to reach the acceptable mark.
"That’s probably just four or five kids," he said. "It’s frustrating because it’s not academics."
Gale Pond Alamo
Bowie Jr. High
Academically unacceptable in the areas of science; economically disadvantaged, and Hispanic sub-groups.
Academically unacceptable due to the competition rate of economically disadvantaged student sub-group.