All Leander ISD schools met state accountability standards for the 2015-2016 school year with six campuses in Four Points also earning Distinction Designations, according to the Texas Education Agency’s 2016 Accountability Report.
Vandegrift High School captured the highest recognition of LISD schools, achieving Distinction Designations in six of seven eligible areas in the report that was updated in November.
“We had six distinctions. The most you can have is seven,” said Charlie Little, Vandegrift principal. “We are doing awesome!”
Little said the Vandegrift accountability ratings consistently rate the VHS campus as one of the best in Texas.
“We are compared to the 40 best schools in the state, so being in Q1 to get a distinction is a significant accomplishment,” Little said. “We use the data to seek out best practices and work to improve instructional practice at our school.”
Little and his team welcome the opportunity to compare Vandegrift’s performance to any school, he said.
“Ratings and recognition of all types are important to our campus’ continuous improvement culture,” he said.
Little attributes Vandegrift’s success to a dedicated and professional faculty who work together as a true professional learning community.
“The spirit of Vandegrift resides in our amazing teaching staff and our dedicated students and community who work together to make Vandegrift such a special place,” Little said. “State assessments will vary over time, but our continued focus on student growth will ensure that we are competitive using any measure.”
Local LISD schools
Other Vandegrift feeder schools earned Distinction Designation accolades: Four Points Middle School with five, Canyon Ridge Middle School with two, River Place Elementary with two, River Ridge Elementary with one and Steiner Ranch Elementary with one.
This was SRE’s first time to earn a Distinction Designation since the recognition started in 2013, said Brenda Cruz, LISD director of student information, assessment and accountability.
Explaining the designations
Cruz noted that Distinction Designation indicators are separate from those used to assign accountability ratings of “met standard” or “improvement required”.
Accountability ratings are based on four performance indexes: Student Achievement, Student Progress, Closing Performance Gaps and Postsecondary Readiness.
Distinction Designations are awarded in Academic Achievement in English Language Arts/Reading, Academic Achievement in Mathematics, Academic Achievement in Science, Academic Achievement in Social Studies (high school and middle school only), Top 25 Percent: Student Progress, Top 25 Percent: Closing Performance Gaps and Postsecondary Readiness.
“Campuses that receive an accountability rating of ‘met standard’ are eligible to earn Distinction Designations,” Cruz said.
Distinction Designations are then awarded based on performance relative to a group of 40 similar campuses within the state.
Campuses are grouped according to school type (elementary, middle or high school), size, grade span and student demographics. Student demographics include the percent of economically disadvantaged students and English language learners as well as the mobility rate, which refers to students who are not at the same campus for all six 6-week cycles, Cruz said.
The campus earns “distinction” when it ranks in the top 10, or quartile 1, of the campuses with which they are grouped.
The only area VHS did not earn Distinction Designation was Top 25 percent in Student Progress.
“Student Progress is defined as a student who has met or exceeded progress on STARR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) as compared to the prior year performance in that content area. At the high school level, an example of this would include English I to English II.
“VHS missed this distinction by one point only,” Cruz said.
Rating system changing
Cruz advised that the current accountability system is transforming and changes will go into effect in August 2018 to encompass data from the 2017-2018 school year.
“The 84th Legislature passed House Bill 2804, changing the Texas school accountability system so that every campus and district receives one of five ratings from A-F.
“The law requires schools and districts to be issued grades based on five different areas of performance or ‘domains’, and those five grades must be combined into a single overall rating,” Cruz said.
Domain headings, as listed on the Texas Education Agency website, are the same as accountability ratings performance indexes with one exception. In addition to Student Achievement, Student Progress, Closing Performance Gaps and Postsecondary Readiness, lawmakers have now included Community and Student Engagement.
Cruz calls the new system a “work in progress” that will continue to evolve over the next year.
“Regardless of the accountability system implemented by the state, Leander ISD will continue to focus on the growth of all students, encouraging, supporting and challenging them to achieve the highest levels of knowledge, skills, and character,” Cruz said.