During Monday’s regular meeting, the Kingsville Independent School District Board of Trustees addressed a recent news report in which the district’s “B” accountability rating was attributed to a higher-than-average military enlistment rate reported to the Texas Education Agency.

In this year’s state accountability ratings, Kingsville ISD improved its overall rating from an “F” to a “B.”

On August 30, the Houston Chronicle ran an article entitled “Loose rules let Texas districts boost ratings by claiming military enlistments” that reported 62 districts and 100 campuses in Texas claimed in its 2019 state accountability ratings that “at least 15 percent of seniors enlisted or intended to enlist in the military following graduation in 2018, more than triple the state average of 4.2 percent.”

That enlistment rate, the article states, helped to boost accountability ratings by one or two letter grades. Kingsville ISD is mentioned in the article as claiming a 46 percent enlistment rate in the accountability ratings after administrators in 2018 counted students who put their names on a sign-in sheet when a military recruiter spoke at the high school.

Board trustee Steven Crites brought up the article during Monday’s meeting, and commended KISD Superintendent Elida Bera, who was quoted in the article, “for being transparent with laying the facts as they are.”

“You did a good job putting lipstick on the pig, but it’s still a pig and we are one of the fattest pigs in the pens,” Crites said.

Crites said the KISD “cooked the books” with its College Career and Military Readiness, or CCMR, measurement, but trustee Cory Garza said the district was not to blame as the TEA was vague with how it defined “intended to enlist.”

“TEA said, ‘You use it how you want,’” Garza said. “All I’m saying is the word was ‘intent.’ Now, how they defined it was beyond our control.”

“And I think in retrospect, if you’ve defined it at a rate 11 times higher than the state and four time higher than your region, you were pretty general and liberal in your definition,” Crites said.

Bera said Crites brought his concerns regarding CCMR when she came onboard as the superintendent.

“And at the time, I listened to him, but I wasn’t sure exactly what number we had submitted to the Texas Education Agency,” she said. “And Mr. Garza’s correct, (TEA) did not give any direction as to how we could identify students that were military-ready.

“In other districts that I’m aware of, if a senior talked to a recruiter, they were considered military-ready. If a student went ahead and took the ASVAB, they were considered military-ready.”

The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, is a timed, multiple-choice test used to help potential recruits identify which military jobs would be right for them.

Bera said what KISD did “makes sense at the time, I’m sure,” when they sent military recruiters to its high school history classes.

“The only reason our district got a ‘B’ was because those scores from two years ago were able to bump our (student achievement domain) from a 70 to a 74,” she said.

Bera said had the district submitted the state average of 4.2 percent enlistment rate, its accountability rating would have been a ‘C’ with an overall score of 73.

“I would take an honest ‘C’ over a tainted ‘B’ any day of the week, because that’s something to be proud of,” Crites said.

Crites said the ‘B’ rating “sets a standard that’s unrealistic to retain.”

“Because we know what it’s built on,” he said. “Let’s just call it what it is, be honest with ourselves and be proud of what we got. As we said before, the ‘F’ doesn’t define us. But you know what? That ‘C’ pretty well defined us based on what we did, and I’ll take it.”

Crites said he was proud of “that ‘C’” because it is based on improved scores and is something the district can document.

“So let’s be honest with ourselves and call it what it is,” he said. “It’s a ‘C,’ and it’s a good ‘C’ and it’s an honest ‘C,’ and that ought to be our standard.”

Anthony Ruiz can be contacted at aruiz@king-ranch.com or (361) 221-0251.

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