KISD administrators made time Tuesday to talk with parents about a recent district rating from the Texas Education Agency.
Public accountability hearings were held at the intermediate and high school campuses at 6 p.m. A handful of parents attended each meeting. The main focus of the discussions were strategies to improve student performance and achieve higher ratings in the future.
Kim Slayter, KIS principal, spoke to a group of about 20 parents gathered in the KIS cafeteria.
“We have two areas of concern and that’s science and writing. That’s what we scored the lowest in,” Slayter said as she displayed a slideshow containing information about the successes and shortcomings on last year’s STAAR tests made by fourth and fifth graders.
TEA rolled out a new grading system for district accountability for the new school year and released grades on August 15. KISD earned a “C”. This grade is assigned by measuring a district’s STAAR scores, improvement on test scores from the previous year and how well the district is serving different student populations.
Slayter explained students take the writing STAAR test for the first time as fourth graders and tackle the science portion for the first time in fifth grade.
“One of the things that we’re changing to help with our science is, in fourth grade, we’ve done some scheduling changes so that math and science are being taught together so by the time they get to fifth grade, they’ll have a better foundation of science,” Slayter said.
Some ESL students had been taught science in Spanish as part of a dual-language program in the hope they would perform better on the fifth grade STAAR, Slayter said.
“We’ve gone to a new system, a TEKS Resource System for curriculum this year and that’s across the board in every subject,” Slayter added. “With this TEKS Resource System, everything is aligned. This is through Region 7. Our curriculum, our testing, everything is aligned. So we’re hoping that’s going to help us in all areas but especially in science and writing.”
The TEKS Resource System is a curriculum management program designed to help teachers create instructional strategies to improve student performance.
“We’re hoping that changes we made this year are going to help increase our scores,” Slayter said. “We’re moving up and we’re making some changes so that we are performing better on state assessments.”
At the high school, principal Charles Presley told parents about faculty training sessions with Dr. Billy Snow at Region 7 in June. Snow is a former teacher and current superintendent at Cedar Hill ISD who has received numerous awards for improving under-performing campuses in Texas and Louisiana.
One of his key proposals for improving schools is changing the campus “climate and culture” by giving students incentives for good behavior, school spirit, academic performance and participation.
“We went to work setting up these house systems that are just like little families within our schools,” Presley said. The “house” system, a technique used by Snow, assigns students to one of several teams on campus. Students earn points by exhibiting good conduct, earning good grades and achieving goals set by faculty. The system is intended to encourage friendly competition between students, resulting in higher academic achievement for all.
Presley said 29 teachers participated in summer meetings to plan a house system for Kilgore schools to begin in the fall.
“We have made kids that don’t normally associate or spend much time together, come together. We’re trying to break down some barriers that exist,” Presley said, adding the school’s aim was to create new, positive relationships between students who would work together to earn points for their house by meeting goals.
“We’re going to award points to the house that has the best GPA, to the house that has the best attendance, to the house that has the fewest disciplinary problems,” Presley said. He explained the intent of the plan was “bringing us all together and creating some common goals.”
Presley ended his discussion by telling parents the district is implementing the house system on each campus and hoped it would become sustainable into the future.
“Ultimately, we believe this is going to help us academically,” Presley said. “We’re not content with where we are.”