Waco schools in performance trouble, may close

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Five Waco schools are in danger of being shut down by the Texas Education Agency because of long-running problems with poor test scores.

The schools started the year with a warning from Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath: if scores don’t improve, either close the schools or replace the district’s board, according to the Waco Tribune-Herald.

The five schools have been rated as “improvement required” based on standardized test scores for at least five years in a row, and a state law requires tough action if students don’t start performing better on tests.

Principals are now trying to figure out how to give the scores a shot in the arm.

From the Waco Tribune-Herald:

When Indian Spring Principal John Jenkins received a copy of the TEA letter, it frustrated him but only drove his desire to succeed, he said.

“It was a kick in the stomach,” Jenkins said. “I planned all summer with this staff to get us ready, and it’s very difficult on the first day to get that.

“The work we do gets reduced down to this, and there’s so many things this campus does. I’ve got a four-page outline just in general of the activities the campus performs that are beyond the scope of this test.”

His campus has been on the list for five years, and he has been principal for the past three, he said. The school made significant progress on its scores last year and came up just two points shy of getting off the list, TEA records show.

But the big question for Texas parents is how their child’s school is doing.

The Texas Education Agency makes it easy to find out. Each year, the TEA makes public report cards for each school in Texas.

For example, a quick search shows that Bellaire Highschool in the Houston Independent School District is performing above average for categories such as student achievement and student progress.

Brentwood Elementary School in the Austin Independent School District is also performing above average and won a distinction for the students’ work in science.

Parents at Guillen Middle School in the El Paso Independent School District may be less pleased. The report card shows the pupils are performing below average in the student achievement category.

You can look up a school of interest here.

Trent Seibert can be reached at [email protected] or at 832-258-6119.

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Trent is an award-winning editor and reporter, who has previously worked The Denver Post, The (Nashville) Tennessean, and the San Diego Union-Tribune. Most recently, he was the investigative producer for Houston’s KTRK-TV ABC-13. He was also the editor and founder of Texas Watchdog, a ground-breaking news group that paved the way for this project. Trent is a teacher of journalism skills, and has shown hundreds of reporters and citizen-journalists how to use public records, databases and journalism tools to keep a watchful eye on their own local government.

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