Making the grade

Gonzales ISD improves accountability score


Last week, the annual TEA state accountability ratings were released, with most school districts around the area improving from last year’s scores. Each rating is based on the 2018-19 school year.

Gonzales ISD earned a B rating (80 out of 100) as a district, an improvement from last year’s F. Nixon-Smiley CISD earned a C rating (79), a slight decrease from last year’s B (82). Waelder ISD earned a C rating (79), five points better than last year. Luling ISD improved to a C (73), six points better than last year. Shiner ISD scored an A (93), the same score as last year.

“In terms of the B rating I’m extremely excited about that for the staff and the community and all the work that they did last year to bring themselves to a B,” Gonzales ISD Superintendent John Schumacher said. “It’s tough when all school districts are rated in terms of learning on one STAAR test. That would be like the football team having one game and that’s their season. It’s, to me, not the most valid way to really measure learning, but that’s the game we’re under and we’re playing it and we have a B at this time.”

In calculating scores, the rating for the entire district isn’t based on an average of the ratings on each campus. For instance, Gonzales ISD has been rated a B, but no campus scored higher than a C. 

“The formula is extremely complicated,” Gonzales ISD Assistant Superintendent Dr. Lydia Bartlett explained. “Schools don’t know the end-all, be-all of the formula.”

Factors such as “student achievement,” which shows how much students know and are able to do at the end of the school year, “school progress,” which shows growth compared to similar schools, and “closing the gap,” which shows how well different populations of students in a district are performing are all included toward the final letter grade.

Despite the complexity of the ratings, Dr. Bartlett explained that each GISD campus will analyze their data every three weeks and adjust instruction based on the data they collect.

“Did the students learn what we wanted them to, what are we going to do if they didn’t and how are we going to adjust?” Bartlett said.

“And if they did learn, what are we going to do for those students who have done that,” Schumacher added. “So we don’t just look at those who are not performing.”

At Nixon-Smiley CISD, Superintendent Dr. Cathy Lauer applauded her staff for the work they’ve done the last school year, but wanted to remind the community that reducing a school district to a letter grade is “ridiculous.”

“Of course I want to celebrate our middle school — they overcame the barriers and really knocked this out of the park,” she said. “Not only did they receive a very high ‘B’ (88), but earned all seven distinctions as well. But just to point out again how complicated this system is, they are also considered ‘comprehensive’ and will be in a monitoring situation with TEA. After much digging through data, we believe it is related to one sub-population (white) not performing as well as expected.”

“To reduce the measures of all campuses and district performance to a single letter grade is a ridiculous notion,” Lauer continued. “Very few people can really tell you how these scores are derived. It's a complicated system, based largely on once-per-year, multiple-choice, standardized tests.”

“I did not brag about our ‘B (82) last year and I will not hang my head over the district's ‘C’ (79) this year,” she added. “Our students, staff, campuses, and communities are not an ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘D’, or ‘F.’"

In Waelder, Superintendent Jon Orozco was pleased with the improvement.

“Waelder ISD was very excited that our overall scores improved from 74 to 79 for the school year,” Orozco said. “Our students, teachers, administrators, and the community have been working diligently to continue to improve the education system and course offerings for our student's success in Waelder. Increasing five points on an evaluation system that has 2,600 evaluation measurements is very difficult to accomplish. I want to thank the school board and the community for their trust in WISD for allowing us to support the students of Waelder in their educational success.”

With room for even more improvement, Orozco added that his administrative team is looking at identifying any problems at the district and ways to fix them.

“Waelder ISD administrative team has identified our students by looking at their year to year growth in reading and math,” he said. “I believe that most districts continue to struggle in these two areas. We have identified and made adjustments to staffing, lesson planning, and teaching pedagogy. We also have a committee that will monitor and evaluate which students are struggling near the progress report period deadlines. School administration and teachers will make contact with parents and set up special tutorial times to reteach strategies to improve individual needs in academic areas.”

Over in Shiner, newly hired superintendent Alex Remschel gave props to the school district for their overall A rating.

“Shiner ISD is very happy to receive a grade of A in the most recent TEA Accountability ratings,” he said. “This is always great validation for our wonderful staff and the positive work they do daily to ensure our students are ready for post-secondary success. As with all accountability measures school districts receive from the State of Texas, it is important to look closely at areas where we showed signs of stagnancy or decline. Our elementary campus earned a B rating for the 2018-2019 school year. While this is still a good rating, I know the elementary staff is not satisfied with the result and are motivated to improve that score. At Shiner ISD, we will always hold our students to a high standard of excellence with an acute focus on our areas of need.”


TEA Accountability Ratings
Gonzales ISD
District B (80)
Primary D (68)
Elementary D (68)
North Avenue C (74)
Junior High C (75)
High C (78)
Nixon-Smiley CISD
District C (79)
Elementary F (59)
Middle B (88)
High C (76)
Waelder ISD
District C (79)
Luling ISD
District C (73)
Primary D (66)
Elementary D (66)
Junior High F (50)
High B (80)
Shiner ISD
District A (93)
Elementary B (86)
High A (92)