Two school districts with campuses that haven't met academic standards in past years are hard at work preparing students for the standardized tests next week.
Waco ISD has five campuses at risk of closing if students don't perform well on the State of Texas of Academic Readiness this spring. Those campuses are G.W. Carver Middle School, Indian Spring Middle School, Alta Vista Elementary, Brook Avenue Elementary and J.H. Hines Elementary.
Waco ISD is hoping to start and in-district partnership with Prosper Waco for the five campuses in an effort to have time to improve, if one or more schools at risk don't meet standards. If it's approved by the Texas Education Agency, those schools will remain open for at least two years.
The district is also focusing on improving schools that could be at risk of closing in the future if students don't do well this year and next spring, such as Crestview Elementary.
Crestview Principal Jacob Donnell who started his job at that campus in August started helping students be ready for the test since day one.
“We didn’t begin prepare for STAAR this week. As soon as I hit the door, we began taking a look what the needs where on the campus. There was a need in terms of reading level and literacy for our students."
Donnell said he created an intervention block, during which teachers work with students on math and reading schools. The students are usually separated in groups depending on their needs.
“I think it’s giving students what they need to be successful regardless whatever the assessment is or the academic challenge," Donnell said.
This week, students are spending time becoming more familiar with the format of the test and participating in hands on activities. For example, fourth graders are looking for words in dictionaries, revising and editing sentences.
Instructional Specialist Bobby Jo Wilhelm who goes into classrooms to support teachers with their lessons said the interactive activities keeps students engaged.
“I think it allows them to see it in a different way instead of a worksheet, or the workbook," Wilhelm said.
She said the children will be ready for the test once the time comes.
“The kids are really stepping it up. The bar has been raised and they are meeting," Wilhelm said. "We believe in them and we want them here."
Donnell is also confident students will do well on the test.
"I know that we are making up ground sort of speak, we are backfilling prior knowledge that is missing from our students. I know because I see it in our own assessments. I think we are doing enough that we are going to make it."
If the campus is listed as improvement required again, the principal said they would continue to do what they have been doing until now.
Marlin ISD, which has not met standards as a district for the past six years, is also working to give students the tools they need to prepare for the test.
Superintendent Dr. Michael Seabolt said teachers are giving high-quality instruction and they are checking students are learning. However, this week, the main focus is on the test itself.
"You do go over testing strategies, what are called distractors on a test. You also go over the material that you are very sure that is going on the STAAR test but it was taught 12 weeks go, 15 weeks ago. You go over those questions once again and you hone skills," Seabolt said.
Marlin ISD is expected to remain open for at least another school year, as part of an agreement with the Texas Education Agency. However, it's unknown its future after that.
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