Correction: In a previous version of this story, Memorial Middle School was incorrectly identified as a failing campus with a score of 52 in 2018. The campus met standard in 2018 with a rating of 76 out of a possible 100 points.
In August 2018, the Kingsville Independent School District was one of only 16 school districts out of the nearly 1,200 measured in the state to receive an “F” rating in the Texas Education Agency’s then-new accountability ratings system.
Since then, KISD has undergone several changes during the 2018-19 academic year, including hiring a new superintendent, the elimination of MicroSociety, administrative and faculty resignations, retirements and reassignments and continued adjustments to curriculum and teaching methods.
While the ratings at the campus level still have room for improvement, the district overall has pulled itself out of a failing grade to receive a “B” rating in TEA’s 2019 state accountability ratings.
“I give the credit to the teachers,” KISD Superintendent Elida Bera said. “Because it all happens in the classroom. They’re the ones that did the work.”
The district went from an overall score of 57 out of a possible 100 points last year to an 84 this year. KISD also improved across the board in all three measured domains, going from a 60 to a 74 in Student Achievement, a 60 to an 89 in School Progress and a 51 to a 72 in Closing the Gaps.
“We didn’t do anything creative or out-of-the-box,” Bera said. “We did what most successful schools are doing, and that is teaching bell-to-bell, providing good instruction, working with teachers and providing staff development for them and supporting them.”
Bera said getting the Kingsville ISD out of the “F” rating was important not just for the district itself, but also city of Kingsville and the surrounding community.
“It’s an exciting time to live in Kingsville,” she said. “You see a vibrant city, and people that are proud to live in this city, but our school district was bringing everybody down. People didn’t want to move here because they saw that ‘F.’”
Along with the district, H.M. King High School was also rated a “B” for 2019, going from a 52 overall score last year to an 81 this year. Bera said her primary goal when she came in was to make changes at the high school.
“The way the high school goes (in the ratings), so goes the district,” Bera said. “Because the high school has the most impact on the accountability scores.”
Bera said what had been done in the past “could not continue.” She said she had KISD Assistant Superintendent Kamara Adams work with the high school to assist students who had been consistently struggling with STAAR testing.
“What she did is she embedded remediation classes, which we didn’t have at the high school,” Bera said. “We looked at the teachers that had been successful in working with students that needed assistance, and we put those teachers in those classrooms with those students.”
Another strategy for HMK, Bera said, was “making sure that the teachers were teaching bell-to-bell.”
“From the minute the students walk in, there was something on the board,” she said. “This is just good, old-fashioned teaching. Really, that’s what we went to. The students adapted to it very well, and the teachers saw the impact that it had and stepped up their instruction.”
Memorial Middle School, which received a 76 overall score in 2018, was rated a “C” campus this year with a score of 73.
While HMK and Memorial Middle School improved to passing grades this year, Gillett Intermediate School’s rating was mainly stagnant. However, even though the campus’s overall score went up just one point, from 59 to 60, it was enough to receive a “D” rating for 2019.
Bera said the drop that concerned her the most, though, was in the Closing the Gaps domain, which went from a 62 in 2018 to a 47 in this year’s ratings.
“And for us in this district, it’s closing the achievement gap between our special education students and all of our students,” Bera said. “That’s our biggest sub-population. We have about 400 students identified as special ed.”
Three out of the four KISD elementary campuses also experienced drops in their overall scores, with two campuses rated as “F” and one campus a “D.”
“What that tells me is that we don’t have an aligned curriculum at the elementary level,” Bera said.
Harrel Elementary School went from a 67 overall score in 2018 to a 59 this year, while Kleberg Elementary School dropped five points, going from 52 to 47.
“Kleberg is our weakest campus,” Bera said. “I’m going to be spending a lot of time with that school.”
Bera said one concern from the school board with Kleberg Elementary was in its lack of parental involvement. She said the campus’ new principal, Ode Moreno, “is excellent at bringing in and involving the community.”
“That’s one of her strengths,” she said.
Bera said they also moved assistant principal Norma Prado from Perez Elementary to Kleberg Elementary.
“And I’m hoping that with those gains that she made at Perez, she’ll bring her expertise into (Kleberg),” she said. “I think they’ll make a good balance.”
Harvey Elementary School, which was the highest-scoring campus for KISD in 2018, dropped severely this year, from an 80 overall score to a 67.
“I don’t really know what happened with Harvey,” Bera said. “That was a big drop, but we have a great principal there (for 2019-20), Dr. Abigail Barton. I visited all of the schools the other day, and I could feel the excitement at this campus.”
The only elementary campus to see gains this year was Perez Elementary School, which went from a 71 overall score in 2018 to a 92 this year, making it the district’s sole “A” campus.
The biggest domain gain for the campus was in Closing the Gaps, which went from a 63 in 2018 to a perfect score of 100 this year.
“They really soared,” Bera said.
Bera said her goal next year is for the Kingsville ISD to be an “A” district.
“But for that, we can’t have any ‘F’ or ‘D’ campuses next year,” she said. “It’s reachable. This year, the teachers stepped up to the plate and they did it. All of the credit goes to them.”
Anthony Ruiz can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (361) 221-0251.