The majority of Brazoria County school districts improved their state ratings from the previous year, according to the letter-grade system used by the Texas Education Agency, with each receiving a B grade overall.
Texas Education Agency’s grading of school districts is a complicated calculation, but heavily depends on how students perform on standardized testing mandated by the state, area school district leaders agree.
The top-ranking districts were Danbury ISD and Brazosport ISD with scores of 88. Sweeny ISD earned a score of 85, Angleton ISD earned an 84 and Columbia-Brazoria ISD earned an 80.
Districts are graded by scores in three categories: student achievement, school progress and closing the gaps.
As a district, Angleton ISD improved its scores from 81 out of 100 for the 2017-18 academic year to 84 out of 100 for last school year, according to data collected from the state-mandated STAR test.
“Overall, looking at everything in the district, we went up a couple of points and obviously we’re pleased with that,” Superintendent Phil Edwards said.
Across 11 schools in the district, three alternative schools were not measured, three schools improved, two schools remained the same as last year and three schools fell.
Noticeably, Westside Elementary’s overall score dropped from 88 last year to 79 this year, Southside Elementary’s overall score dropped from 77 to 68, and Northside Elementary’s score fell just a couple points, from 73 to 71.
Much of the change in scores came from the “closing the gaps” subsection for each school. Closing the gap measures how well different demographic groups of students are performing. Southside Elementary received an F in this section.
While Edwards said the school is looking into the scores and discussing ways to implement strategic improvement plans, he said the way the letter grade is calculated is a complicated process that takes data from only one test.
“The system is incredibly complex,” Edwards said. “(The public) sees a letter grade and it seems easy, but it takes a lot of time for people to understand that grade.”
Brazosport ISD is very proud of the district’s improvement this year, earning a B overall and 31 state distinctions, Superintendent Danny Massey said.
In 2015, the district earned five state distinctions and had raised that to 15 in 2018, Massey said.
Last year, the district did not receive an official rating because of Hurricane Harvey, but the TEA assigned it an unofficial score of 74 out of 100 for a grade of C. The score jumped 14 points, earning the district an 88.
“We’re very excited and proud of the efforts of our campus staff,” Massey said.
The district had four schools come in with a grade of A — A.P. Beutel Elementary, Bess Brannen Elementary, Lake Jackson Intermediate and O.M. Roberts Elementary, all in Lake Jackson.
Roberts improved significantly from 75 last year to 90.
Other schools that made major strides were Elisabet Ney Elementary with a score of 80, up from 64 last year, and Lanier Middle School with an 81, up from 66.
Most of the 20 campuses in the district improved or maintained their scores from the previous year.
Buetel and Roberts becoming A campuses and receiving five out of five state distinctions is especially exciting, and teachers will be rewarded accordingly, Massey said.
“That is tremendous growth of the students there,” he said.
State distinctions are earned in categories such as math and social studies, comparative academic growth, closing the gap and post-secondary readiness. These give a slightly bigger picture of school achievement since they are not based exclusively on standardized tests, Massey said.
For each state distinction a school earns, every teacher at the campus gets a $200 bonus in their December paychecks, he said.
Columbia-Brazoria ISD improved nine points since last year, earning a score of 80 and letter grade of B.
The district is pleased with its state score, but still focuses on the “13-year journey in C-BISD” and delivering quality education to each student, Superintendent Steven Galloway said.
“Districtwide, with a B, we’re very flattered with that,” Galloway said.
Though the district performed well overall, Columbia High School was the only school to earn a matching score with an 80. West Brazos Junior High got a 70, West Columbia Elementary got a 71, Wild Peach Elementary got a 68 and Barrow Elementary trailed with a 55.
Barrow’s grade of F means there will be a corrective plan put in place, Galloway said, but the district has already begun to make improvements. The reorganization of grades between Wild Peach and Barrow put more teachers and students in each grade level, meaning the schools will have more resources to be successful on standardized tests in the future, he said.
But even in the lowest-scoring schools, they had some of the highest-scoring areas in the district, Galloway said.
“There are silver linings in everything,” he said.
The district performed lowest in the closing the gaps criteria, where it earned a 73. Closing gaps looks at certain groups, ethnicities and economically disadvantaged, but the district tries to build the focus on individual improvement in every student, even in physical education, Galloway said.
“When it comes to C-BISD, we’re talking about every kid,” he said.
Overall, Galloway said he believes the majority of the C-BISD community is pleased with their schools.
The district saw a seven-point improvement in its overall score, earning an 88 out of 100 for 2018-19 compared to an 81 the previous academic year.
The middle school’s overall score dropped from 86 to 78 as it had trouble meeting the criteria for the closing the gaps section. Danbury Middle school received a 67 out of 100 in that category for a D.
Danbury High School scored an 85 overall, up 9 points from last year, and the elementary school received an 80, a slight decrease from the previous year.
Acting Superintendent Sherry Phillips said she’s glad to see the numbers increase but recognizes there is still work to be done.
”We still know that we have work to do. We’re pleased with the results but we have to dig deeper into the data,” Phillips said. “At convocation, we had that conversation about accountability. We work hard on our curriculum and best practices.”
Sweeny ISD received an overall score of 85 points for the 2018-19 school year, giving the district a B rating.
“We are very proud as a district to have maintained an overall rating of a B,” Superintendent Tory Hill said. “That is definitely because we’ve had great teachers who are working extremely hard to meet the individual needs of all our students.”
For individual ratings, the district scored an 87 in student achievement and scored highest in school progress with an 89, one point shy of an A. TEA states school progress indicates how students perform over time and how that growth compares to similar districts and schools.
Hill said the district saw tremendous growth in science, social studies and writing courses, as well as an increase in masters performance across the district.
The district scored lowest in closing the gaps, earning a 77, which TEA says indicates how well different demographic groups of students are performing.
Sweeny ISD plans to continue focusing on improving educational equity between student groups by working with teachers, Hill said. By introducing instructional coaches to every grade level, teachers can work one-on-one with the coaches to grow in real time.
“As we continue to become a more diverse school district, it’s important that our teachers continue to build their capacity on how to meet the needs of students from various backgrounds,” Hill said.
The accountability system only encompasses a small portion of the learning that goes on in schools because it focuses on just a few days of high-stakes testing, Hill said.
Many factors go into creating a successful learning environment for students, and that happens throughout the entire school year, Hill said. There are many things the Sweeny community values that aren’t part of the accountability system, and the district makes sure to design learning experiences to meet those values, he said.
“The overall accountability rating is a one-day snapshot of where our kids are on that one day,” Hill said. “It’s by no way a true measure of what our students know, understand and are able to do.”