Breckenridge Texan

Superintendent: BISD’s ‘C’ grade not reflective of local focus, challenges

Superintendent: BISD’s ‘C’ grade not reflective of local focus, challenges
August 29
05:55 2018

When the Texas Education Agency released the 2018 accountability ratings for the state’s school districts earlier this month, Breckenridge was given the average rating of “C,” but the local superintendent said that grade doesn’t really reflect what he thinks is most important to the students and the community.

“My metric for our school is and always will be: every day, do everything we can for every kid,” said Tim Seymore, superintendent of Breckenridge Independent School District. “That’s what we do. That’s what we’re supposed to do. Nothing else matters, because if you’re doing, every day, everything you can for every kid, the grade comes up, if it should. If we’re not doing everything we can, it doesn’t matter if we have an ‘A,’ we still should be doing more if we’re not doing everything we can. I don’t need a grade to tell me to do everything we can every day for every kid.”

This is the first year that the state’s multi-campus school districts and district charters have received an accountability rating based on an A-F scale. In the past, they received ratings of “Met Standard,” “Met Alternative Standard” or “Improvement Required.” Texas’ single-campus school districts and charters continue to receive ratings under the old system.

According to the TEA, the districts received a grade or rating based on performance in three areas:

  • Student Achievement measures what students know and can do by the end of the year.  It includes results from state assessments across all subjects for all students, on both general and alternate assessments, College, Career, and Military Readiness indicators, like AP and ACT results, and graduation rates.
  • School Progress measures how much better students are doing on the STAAR test this year versus last year, and how much better students are doing academically relative to schools with similar percentages of economically disadvantaged students.
  • Closing the Gaps looks at performance among student groups, including various racial/ethnic groups, socioeconomic backgrounds and other factors.

Seventy percent of the accountability rating is based on the better of Student Achievement or Student Progress (whichever is better is the only performance measure counted in the calculations), the TEA reported. The remaining 30 percent is based on performance in the Closing the Gaps area.

BISD received an overall grade of a C, scoring 79 out of 100 points. In Student Achievement, the district received a B, 80 points; School Progress, B, 81 points; and Closing the Gaps, C, 73 points. Additionally, the district received an A, 98 out of 100 points, for financial integrity.

“We scored a 79, so I guess, darn, that’s one point away from a B,” Seymore said. “It’s up from a D, which was our initial estimate when they first put all this out in 2016. They said, ‘Based on where you are, you’re going to get a D.’”

Breckenridge’s score is in line with and even higher than some other area schools, although several scored higher. For example, Graham ISD and Eastland ISD also received a C with scores of 77 and 78, respectively. Albany and Cisco receive a B with scores of 84 and 83, respectively.

In total, 153 districts/charters received an A; 356 received a B; 247 received a C; 57 received a D; and, 16 received an F. Additionally, 92 districts/charters would have received a rating of B or less but they were not rated because they had been affected by Hurricane Harvey last year. Thirteen districts received a “Not Rated” label for reasons other than the hurricane. Of Texas’ one-campus schools, 254 either “Met Standard” or “Met Alternative Standard,” and 12 received a rating of “Improvement Required.”

For more scores of area schools, click the box below:

TEA Ratings of Area Schools

School DistrictLetter GradeScore out of 100 points
Starred (*) schools are in Breckenridge's UIL Academic district.For more school ratings, visit https://tea.texas.gov/A-F/
BreckenridgeC79
GrahamC77
EastlandC78
AlbanyB84
CiscoB83
* JacksboroC76
*BoydC76
* BrockA95
* MillsapB80
* ParadiseB83
* PeasterB84
* TolarB82
AnsonC77
RangerD63
ColemanD66
GrafordD67
MerkelD68
WeatherfordC77
DublinA94
EarlyA90
Jim Ned A94
OlneyA90
Rising StarA90
RobyA91
WallA97
Abilene WylieA95

According to the TEA, the report cards spotlight specific strengths, in addition to any challenges, that can assure the needs of all students are being met.

However, Seymore doesn’t necessarily agree.

“It’s based on a test (the STAAR test), which all of us concede is poor and doesn’t judge anyone’s ability to be successful at anything except the test,” he said. “There are some parts of (the rating system) that are valid, but most of the weight is on your test results. But, there are some other things that count, particularly for the campuses, like the high school campus. There are some other indicators, and we care about those things. Clearly we care about being college- and career-ready; we care about people going on to do something productive when they get out of school.”

The superintendent said that although he cares about the data that’s in the ratings report, he doesn’t have time to analyze what it would take to raise the score by 1 point in order to get a B.

“Quite frankly, I don’t care. I care about every individual kid, and that every day, we’re doing everything we can for every kid. How that comes out with a score of 79, I don’t really care,” Seymore said. “I said to my administrators when I met with them, ‘We got a 79. Do we wish it were an 80? Sure we do. Do I want you to go back to your campus and figure out how to get it up to an 80? No I don’t. Don’t waste your time trying to figure that out. Make sure you’re doing everything you can for every kid every day.’ That’s probably not the politically correct response, but that’s my response.”

Seymore said the rating will not affect the school district’s state funding. “The only way you get additional state funding is if you fail. You don’t get more money if you get an “A.” You only get additional money if you fail,” he said.

The superintendent said that, based on his research, he believes the scores are linked to socio-economic status of the students.

“If you look at the scores as they came out, the scores are very much in line with the socio-economic status of the students,” he said. “Breckenridge is 60 percent low socio-economic status.”

That low socio-economic status presents most of the challenges the school district faces.

“I see the challenges for BISD are much like other districts that are similar in terms of the demographic of the community,” Seymore said. “And the challenges are students who come from families where education is not a priority, students who struggle every day for survival and school is not their primary concern; it’s where is one or more of their parents going to be at the end of the day today. ‘Where are we going to live next week, because we know it’s not here because we live in a different place repeatedly as we get bumped out of house to house?’ Those are the things we face. Those are the struggles we face. Kids need a more stable family situation in order to be successful at school.

“That’s our challenge,” the superintendent continues. “Can we survive that at school? We’re going to do everything we can. This is clearly why I am pushing out into the community that we bring the entire community up. Because if the entire community comes up, the school will come up with it. We have to work on those things.”

That point, Seymore said, is missed by the TEA’s scoring system.”All scoring system will miss that point,” he said.

A better system of accountability would be through each school district’s community, according to Seymore’s ideas.

“Accountability, to me, is this community… this school board,” he said. “This school board knows the people who elected them, and they know what those people think about these schools and what’s happening with their kids in these schools. That’s how the system was set up 100 years ago or more. So, school accountability should come from the community through the school board. I’m a 100 percent believer in that.”

Despite the average rating from the TEA, Seymore said he wholeheartedly believes that BISD is making progress.

“Our administration is doing things on campuses for kids, to meet the needs of kids, wherever they are, in every campus, that were not happening when I got here,” he said. “That has been my focus since day one, that we build relationships with kids, that we use those relationships to figure out how do we better meet the kids’ needs and we start putting in place things to meet those needs. I 100 percent believe that we are vastly better than we were three and a half years ago. If I didn’t think we were getting better, I would take myself out of the game. Because that’s why we exist.”

Returning to the concept of communities and schools being connected, Seymore said he believes in developing a relationship between the school system and the community as a whole. “We can’t (make things better) with 230 staff members,” he said. “We need the support of the whole community, which is why I’m pushing out into the community. Because it doesn’t take a village, it takes a community, and I believe that we need to work harder at bringing the community into the schools to let the community help grow the schools up.”

And, the concept is reciprocal.

“I believe also that we need to push the schools out into the community to help grow the community up, because I think they rise hand-in-hand,” Seymore said. “Much of what we’re doing in schools needs to happen in the community. We need growth in the community. We need better programs to meet the needs of our community members, We need to work on the infrastructure of the community. We need to work on what it looks like when you drive down the street in this community. I’m working on it in the school district, and we need to work on it in the community, too, because it makes a difference.

“People see hope, that’s how people get hope … they see it. They have to see things happening, and we need to grow that hope in the community and our schools by seeing things get better,” he continued. “So, that’s a lot of focus right now, and my intention of pushing this stuff, ‘Together is Better,’ into the community, is that we do things that people can see, things are getting better and that creates hope and hope creates success.”

Seymore was referencing the book “Together is Better,” which has inspired him to encourage the citizens of Breckenridge to come together with the school district to improve the overall community. He introduced his ideas at the Breckenridge Chamber of Commerce luncheon last month.

The reaction from community members has been great, he said: “I have had more feedback from community members about the things we’re doing and the way we’re doing it than in any job I’ve ever had.”

To learn more about the A–F accountability system, visit https://tea.texas.gov/A-F/ where you can search by district or school name and compare that district’s or school’s performance to others in the area.

 

Story by Tony Pilkington and Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

Cutline, top photo: Breckenridge Independent School District Superintendent Tim Seymore addresses the Board of Trustees at a recent school board meeting. Seymore says the “C” that BISD received from the Texas Education Agency isn’t representative of the school district’s focus or challenges. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

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