Students in Transformation Waco schools have made significant strides in their performance on state standardized exams in the past two years, even surpassing state average scores on some tests this year, CEO Robin McDurham said at a board meeting Tuesday night.
Three of the five Transformation Waco schools that are part of an in-district charter system designed to improve student achievement showed gains in reading and math scores over last year’s state standardized test scores, according to preliminary data released by the Texas Education Agency.
“We’ve come a long way since two years ago, when all five zone schools were at the bottom 5% in the state,” McDurham said. “The idea that we’re beating state averages in some areas right now — that’s a celebration.”
The preliminary test scores come a year after the TEA approved a plan between the Waco Independent School District and Prosper Waco, a nonprofit, to form Transformation Waco, an in-district charter partnership for the district’s five chronically underperforming schools. The first-of-its-kind partnership in the state shields the schools from closure for two years under Senate Bill 1882, which passed into law in 2017.
Three of those schools — Alta Vista Elementary School, Brook Avenue Elementary School and Indian Spring Middle School — showed improvement in their reading and math scores from last year. But the reading and math scores for both J.H. Hines Elementary School and G.W. Carver Middle School decreased from the previous school year.
Brook Avenue students demonstrated increases in performance in six out of the eight State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness elementary school students take, McDurham said. Meanwhile, Alta Vista performed above the state average score on fifth grade reading and math exams.
But the real prize of the pack was Indian Spring Middle School, McDurham said.
“Indian Spring was the only school in the district that maintained or increased in every performance category, and they out-performed the state average in eighth grade reading, math and algebra,” she said.
Based on the preliminary data, Alta Vista Elementary School fifth graders made the biggest gains, with reading passing rates increasing by 18 percentage points to 62% passing. Eighth graders at Indian Spring Middle School showed the next biggest gains by increasing their math passing rate by 15 percentage points, up to 76%.
“In Transformation Waco, 100% of our algebra students met the performance standard, beating the state average of 84%,” McDurham said. “We’re really thrilled to have seen that type of progress.”
Hundreds of students in Transformation Waco schools chose to spend their spring breaks at school to sharpen their literacy and math skills in preparation for the state exams. Administrators selected about 90 students from each school who showed the most potential for improvement to attend the academy, bringing total participation to about 450 students in third through eighth grades.
Transformation Waco board member Mary Fisher asked if the board would receive information on how the students who attended the spring break academy performed on the standardized exams. McDurham said that data would be presented to the board in August.
But it is too soon to tell how the Transformation Waco schools will be graded by the state in its accountability ratings, McDurham said.
The state determines school districts’ accountability ratings based on three “domains”: student achievement, school progress and closing the gap, according to the TEA website. Student achievement is based on STAAR scores, graduation rates, and college, career and military readiness of graduates. School progress looks at how many students at each campus improved on their STAAR scores and how each campus performed compared to similar campuses and districts. Closing the gap examines how school districts help disenfranchised students achieve academic success.
Accountability ratings will be released Aug. 15.
“This data set is one picture of the accountability measure, but you cannot take this data set and try to project accountability because there are three separate domains in the accountability measure, and growth contributes a great bit toward that,” she said. “This is straight-up how many students met the ‘approaches passing’ standard, as opposed to the whole picture of growth. We can’t, with confidence, tell you what the state rating is going to be until we hear from the state in August.”
2019 STAAR results — Waco ISD
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