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For BSISD, 'unacceptable' is unacceptable

November 9, 2012

It's doubtful anyone is more anxious for Big Spring Independent School District to emerge from the cloud of its “academically unacceptable” rating than school officials themselves.

BSISD earned that odious rating in the last round of Texas Education Agency ratings two years ago and school officials are eager to rid the district of the tag.

“No one likes to be considered unacceptable, and we're going to do everything we can to get out from under that,” Superintendent Steven Saldivar told school trustees during their monthly meeting Thursday night.

Saldivar reported to trustees about the latest efforts to improve the district's accountability rating and some of the changes the state of Texas has made in the ways it measures student success.

Gone (for the most part, at least) is the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test that served as the state's bellwether for gauging how well schools were doing their job. In its place are another pair of acronyms — the STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) tests for students in grades 3 through 8 and EOC (End of Course) exams for high schoolers.

While local officials do not yet know what what the passing standards on those new tests will be — TEA won't release that information until January — they have already instituted several steps aimed toward meeting whatever the new standards will be.

“This is the reality we live in,” Saldivar said. “The question we have to ask ourselves is, what do we have to do to be successful? We have to be very systematic in our approach (to improving student performance) … and it has to start in kindergarten and go all the way through high school.”

The latest step taken by school officials is the formation of “instructional teams” that will eventually visit every classroom in every campus to gauge how well teachers and students are going about their daily educational tasks.

In particular, the teams will be looking at what Saldivar called “instructional feedback” — the quality of instructional dialog from teachers and higher-level questioning from students, for example — when they make their visits.

Once the classroom visits are completed, the teams will de-brief and make any suggestions for improvement to campus principals.

This latest effort comes on top of previously announced steps such as curriculum refinement and the formation of “data teams” to assess student performance and progress.

“This sounds like a lot, but in order to get better academically, we don't know how else to do it,” Saldviar said. “It really is a one student, one teacher and one campus at a time approach.”

And the school district will need everyone to help make the approach succeed, he added.

“We're all in this together,” Saldivar said. “I'm not going to ask anyone else to do something I wouldn't be willing to do myself.”

In other business, trustees approved:

• Leasing the mineral rights of 3.5 acres of district property northwest of Big Spring to Aflon Energy for oil exploration purposes.
• The district's 2012 tax roll, certified at $1.5 billion.
• Bids for food service and maintenance and transportation.

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