Preliminary STAAR results for Waco ISD were released earlier this month. While some schools showed great improvements, others continue to struggle with meeting state standards. KWBU's Jill Ament tells us about some of the challenges lower performing schools in high-need areas are facing and how the district is addressing them.
Coming into this school year, Waco’s J.H. Hines elementary had failed to meet Texas’ accountability standards two years in a row. The state’s Texas Education Agency put the school on an improvement plan. The goal: 50-percent of third through fifth graders meeting standards on the STAAR test. J.H. Hines’ principal Tra Hall says that goal was met in some subjects. But overall the campus didn’t meet the target in all areas.
"Those teachers that really got busy with working with those reforms really saw their scores go up," said Hall. "Those that chose not to, didn't see much result. In fact, they saw some regression."
J.H. Hines serves an area of Waco with a 90-percent poverty rate. Hall says behavior is one of the greatest challenges keeping students from performing well on the STAAR.
"Some of our students have social and emotional issues that often times interfere with their learning and the learning of others," said Hall. "What we've got is 41 students out of 450 to 550, that cause 68% of the office referrals."
To try and address some of those issues, the school separated boys with behavior issues into their own classrooms. Hall says that didn’t work. The school won’t be continuing that this coming year.
"One of them would get upset and react to something and before you know it, there were a lot of them in that classroom environment being very reactive," said Hall.
Administrators and experts think that focusing on behavior will help put schools like J.H. Hines on the right track, testing-wise. Randy Wood is a professor at Baylor’s School of Education. He coordinates the middle school program at Baylor and he’s taught at Caesar Chavez Middle school for 14-years. He says that bad behavior usually leads to bad performance when it comes to test time.
"Focusing students' attention, helping them see the urgency, to me has been the hard part," said Wood. "We've got to figure out a way for students to understand the importance of it. When students tell me, 'Sir, you've got to pass me so I can get to the 9th grade and drop out... it breaks my heart."
Board of Trustees president Pat Atkins says the administration is already working on freeing up some funding to address behavior.
"There are particular initiatives the administration is going to propose in relation to hiring additional discipline tutors," Waco ISD Board of Trustees President Pat Atkins said at a school board meeting earlier this month. "Behavioral tutors that actually work with those students who are at those times disruptive."
J.H. Hines will be implementing a plan next year that will have five or six behavioral tutors along with a behavioral specialist to work with students individually. Principal Tra Hall says that even though the school didn’t meet state standards this year, with time, he’s confident they will.
"We can meet the state standard," said Hall. "Without a doubt. I know our kids can do it. Our teachers have to believe they can do it. I believe they can do it. It just takes time."