Posted Date: 08/16/2019
One Town, One Team, One Goal!
For years now, the Hempstead Independent School District has been under fire for perceived inadequacies within our local public school system. Additionally, the Hempstead ISD continues to battle misperceptions regarding our students’ academic abilities. It is my sincere hope that we will be able to change these perceptions through increased effort, transparency, and communication. We want all members of our community to understand how and why our schools receive the labels they do.
Hempstead ISD is a thriving school system with lots to offer. We want and will do what is best for our students. Therefore, it is important to remember that the A-F accountability system is but one data point, based largely on one STAAR test. While we have shown growth, it is not expected or acceptable for our district or any one campus to receive D’s or F’s in any category. This is our goal. We strive to keep our focus on students and to continue to improve each year. Please see below for an explanation of the A-F accountability system of Texas and how our schools have improved over the last few years.
A-F Accountability Labels
In August of 2018 the state of Texas released its first A-F accountability labels for Texas Public Schools. Based on the trials of several states that came before us, the labels are an attempt to size up all that schools encompass into one small, understandable package.
The Hempstead ISD, along with many other districts across Texas, are concerned that the new rating system utilizes a flawed methodology placing too much emphasis on STAAR testing and comparing schools based on an inequitable approach. Here are five reasons why A-F ratings are not an accurate depiction of our schools:
A-F rating systems are based on once per year test scores, not a comprehensive picture of a student’s ability.
A-F rating systems rely on pages upon pages of complicated rules and calculations, making it hard to really know what a letter grade means.
A-F ratings align with wealth and poverty.
A-F rating systems provide no sense of what schools must do to improve.
A-F rating systems create false impressions.
That being said, the Hempstead ISD has continued to show growth and improvement over the last four years.
2015-2016 “Met Standard” (Equivalent to a “D”)
2016-2017 “Improvement Required” (Equivalent to an “F”)
2017-2018 Score of 70 or “C” Rating
2018-2019 Score of 78 or “C” Rating
Additionally our individual campuses continue to show growth with no campuses receiving the designation of “school improvement needed” during the 2018-2019 school year.
Reading Levels vs. STAAR Test Performance
It is unclear where the accusation came from that only 19% of students at Hempstead Independent School District are reading on grade level. This number is an apparent misunderstanding of how the state measures test scores. We can only assume it was an attempt to add up all the percentages of students that “Mastered” the grade level on our accountability tables. In an attempt to clear up any misunderstandings, we want to explain the different Scores on STAAR.
The Texas STAAR exam assesses much more than Reading Fluency or “levels.” Reading Fluency is the ability to read with adequate speed, accuracy, and proper expression. The STAAR exam assesses analyzing complex text and comparing different genres (poetry, drama, narrative, etc.). For instance, a student may be required to identify what the author’s purpose was in writing the selection, identifying the theme, writing a summary, utilizing context clues, and identifying an author’s purpose in the use of conventions.
If you look at it from a grading standpoint, you could consider Masters Grade Level an “A,” Meets Grade Level a “B,” and Approaches Grade Level a “C.” The state gives the district guidance on these measures. They say a student making an A will need no extra help and a student making a B may need very little extra help. The district should watch all students who make C’s to ensure they do not fall backward as well as continually work to bring the failing students up to grade level.
In the end, it is important to remember that our focus remains our students. Students from the Hempstead ISD continue to
graduate and go on to lead successful lives, some within our own community. Our school district motto this year is One Town, One Team, One Goal! Please help us to keep the emphasis on educating our students to the best of our ability. In turn, we will continue to do what is necessary to keep misperceptions from impacting our work as well as to keep you informed as to how we are doing.
Thank you for your continued support of the Hempstead Independent School District.
Dr. Angela Gutsch