Belton New Tech High School @Waskow in Belton and Kennedy-Powell Elementary School in Temple are among the best-rated schools in each local district, according to 2017 rankings released by Children at Risk.
In Belton Independent School District, New Tech received an A and Belton High School received a B plus. Lakewood Elementary and Sparta Elementary also received As. The lowest scoring school in BISD was Southwest Elementary School, with a D-minus.
The highest scoring school in Temple Independent School District was Kennedy-Powell, which received a B minus. Hector P. Garcia Elementary, Raye-Allen Elementary and Western Hills Elementary all received F ratings. Temple High School received a D-plus.
Children at Risk is an organization the attempts to “improve quality of life for children” through activism, education and research. Every year, it analyzes Texas schools based on student achievement, campus performance (as compared to other campuses with similar levels of poverty), student improvement and college readiness in order to assemble its school ranking list.
Temple Superintendent Robin Battershell said that the rankings mostly show which campuses have the most students with financial struggles.
“This report is a correlation between poverty and at-risk,” Battershell said. “Research has shown for years that there is a one-on-one correlation.”
Children at Risk advertises on its website (childrenatrisk.org) that it rates schools by comparing them with other schools that have similar poverty levels.
“Those campuses that receive an A or a B in the Children at Risk rankings are considered high performing despite high levels of poverty,” it said.
BISD Superintendent Susan Kincannon echoed Battershell’s concerns.
“In general, I’m pleased that two-thirds of our schools received either As or Bs and that all but one school received a C or higher,” Kincannon said. “However, I also have some concerns about the rankings.”
Kincannon questioned the methodology used to come up with these rankings.
“The organization claims that one dimension of these rankings is an effort to adjust performance ‘to eliminate bias toward campuses with low percentages of economically disadvantaged students,’” Kincannon said. “Given that, it’s striking that you could sort our campuses by the percentage of students qualifying for free or reduced school meals and end up with essentially the same order.”
Battershell said that her personal review of the organization’s data in past years indicated that more selective schools scored better.
“Several years ago, I did the same due diligence and found identical trends,” Battershell said. “Taking the 96 districts that scored an A plus, 46 were either academies, charters, or preps whereby the schools can select their student populations. Of the 96 schools, the average rate of students on free and reduced lunch was 10.2 percent.”
Children at Risk names several “Gold Ribbon” schools each year, which are judged based on their ability to educate low-income students. Charter schools and magnet schools are not included in the Gold Ribbon rankings.
“We do not question or care where our kids come from,” Battershell said. “They are ours and we are proud of them. They do very well as attested to by Temple High School earning four academic distinctions in the core subject areas and Travis being named a 2016 Texas Honor Roll presented by Educational Results Partnership (ERP) and the Institute for Productivity in Education (IPE).”
The remaining TISD schools were rated thusly: Scott Elementary — C; Cater Elementary — D; Thornton Elementary — D-minus; Jefferson Elementary — D-minus; Bonham Middle School — C-minus; Travis Science Academy — D; and Lamar Middle School — D-minus.
Other BISD schools were rated as follows: North Belton Middle School — B-plus; Lake Belton Middle School—B; South Belton Middle School — C; Pirtle Elementary School — B-plus; High Point Elementary School—B-minus; Chisholm Trail Elementary School — C plus; Tarver Elementary School — C-plus; and Miller Heights Elementary School — C-plus.
Other area schools received the following scores: Academy High School — B; Salado High School — C-plus; Holland High School — C; Troy High School — D-plus; Rogers High School — D-plus; Bartlett High School — D-minus; Salado Junior High — B-plus; Academy Junior High — C-plus; Holland Middle School — C-plus; Raymond Middle School — D-plus; Rogers Middle School — D-plus; Bartlett Middle School — D; Academy Intermediate School — B plus; Holland Elementary School — B-minus; Salado Intermediate School — C-plus; Troy Elementary School — C; Rogers Elementary School — D-plus; and Bartlett Elementary School — F.