Board members express disappointment with Unacceptable rating

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

Several Alice ISD school officials voiced their disappointment with the recent Academically Unacceptable rating Alice High School received Wednesday from the Texas Education Agency.

Students at the high school who are considered economically disadvantaged by the state fell below standards this year on TAKS testing in mathematics and science. These two areas are a continuing problem across the state.

AISD School Board member Ciro Zamora was very disappointed to find out about the rating.

He said that at this point, the district needs to concentrate on what they can do to improve math and science scores.

"It is a statewide concern, but it is also an immediate concern for our district. It is unacceptable for us to have that rating, and we're going to have to work a lot harder and smarter if were going to correct the situation," Zamora said.

School board president R. David Guerrero shared those sentiments and remained positive about the future direction at the high school.

"We were once a Recognized campus, and I think we'll get there again. We just need to strategize and see where we go from here," Guerrero said. "Just because other schools in the state are in this situation doesn't mean we need to be. I think the administrators need to work together and get to where we need to be."

AHS principal Berta Longoria said the campus is doing exactly that to turn things around. She said school staff know they have a challenge in science and math, much like the rest of the state, but they are ready to work harder.

"We're working on a plan of action and we plan on setting high expectations for the students and the parents," Longoria said.

The teachers are conducting common scope and sequence with the use of C Scope, also known as the curriculum collaborative. The school plans on personalizing the data from the assessments and include a data piece in the lesson plans.

"We're going to be working fully with data-driven instruction, and include that in the lesson plans, with a strong emphasis in vocabulary," Longoria said. "We'll continue research-based instruction strategies we already have in place and capitalize on those. We fully intend to be academically acceptable next year. We're going to work really hard toward that goal."

Board member Lupe Martinez said the district is aware of which students did poorly last year, and that there should be more tutoring available for those students in the economically disadvantaged category.

"It can be turned around, but there needs to be some leadership," Martinez said. "Last year, these students were already falling behind and needed more one-on-one. This should have been done last year. We have good personnel there at the high school, but whatever needs to be done, we need to do. I don't micromanage, I'm talking about the big picture. I think we need to sit down and really deal with this."

Along with AHS, high schools in Ben Bolt and Premont were also rated as Academically Unacceptable by TEA.

Ben Bolt-Palito Blanco ISD superintendent Dr. Grace Everett said Ben Bolt-Palito Blanco High School made great gains overall from 2006 to 2007.

"We were tagged Academically Unacceptable at the high school because the economically disadvantaged group failed to meet the 45 percent state requirement in mathematics," Everett said.

Palito Blanco Elementary, though, was rated as Recognized by TEA, and helped bring the district as a whole to Academically Acceptable.

Everett said she was pleased with the scores overall, as the campuses have made great gains. She doesn't think the economically disadvantaged student percentage, which put the high school at Academically Unacceptable, will be an issue.

"The district administrators have already initiated a plan to address the scores of all populations," Everett said. "We are making changes in our personnel, adding a tutorial/accelerated instruction period during the school day and assigning master teachers as facilitators for the core areas. Our goal is to be Recognized or better next year, and I believe we can do it."

Premont ISD superintendent David Garza was unavailable for comment on Thursday.