PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

December 10, 2013

Under the microscope

State ed agency reps in town to probe repeated PAISD failures

Erinn Callahan
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — Representatives from the Texas Education Agency arrived in Port Arthur Monday to begin a week-long on-site visit in response to the Port Arthur Independent School District’s repeated failures to reach educational standards.

 One of the first orders of business was an afternoon briefing of PAISD administrators. The TEA staged interventions at Stage 4 at PAISD for bilingual education/English as a second language (ESL), Stage 3 for career and technology education, Stage 2 for special education and Stage 1 for No Child Left Behind during the 2013-14 academic year. The agency will conduct interviews and focus group discussions with staff and stakeholders in those programs, as well as review records and engage in field work regarding implementation of improvement plans. The TEA representatives will also review records regarding the district’s leaver coding, as PAISD was identified for systemic issues with reporting students who withdrew from school or left the district.

Districts are required to meet a series of data standards when they serve special populations, and reaching Stages 3 and 4 indicates the district has failed to meet those standards for a set number of years, DeEtta Culbertson, TEA information specialist, said. The standards were adjusted this year to comply with the newly implemented accountability system, Culbertson said, which assesses test scores, dropout rates and graduation data.

“Now we look more at how the students are progressing, rather than just who’s passing,” Culbertson said.

The agency will also visit four campuses — Wheatley School of Early Childhood, Travis Elementary, Washington Elementary and Memorial 9th Grade Academy. These campuses were rated first year Improvement Required (IR) in the state’s new accountability system.

“The very important thing to remember about first-year ‘Improvement Required’ is that you do not want to become second-year ‘Improvement Required,’” Susan Marek, chairperson for the on-site review, said. “It’s really imperative that we find out what is going on to improve student outcomes at your first year IR campuses.”

A second-year IR rating requires a data analysis and a plan for reconstitution. If a campus enters third-year IR, the program or campus may be looking at a complete renovation, Culbertson said.

“Say your low performance is in math — you may have to reconstitute the entire math department, or the entire campus,” she said. “That could also affect everybody’s job at the campus.”

The district will work with the agency’s team to determine what its corrective action plan will be, Culbertson said, and the plan calls for immediate implementation once it is approved. Failure to implement the corrective action plans will result in further sanctions, which could include a program monitor overseeing the district’s work with the programs in question.

Marek said the agency will not determine any findings during its visit. After they depart at 2 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 13, the representatives will issue a report containing its findings to PAISD Superintendent Mark Porterie, as well as the actions the district is required to take.

Porterie said the district has been preparing for the TEA’s visit for the past two weeks.

“We are going to work with the agency to explore areas of concern that we also have,” Porterie said. “We’re ready to go.”

Email: ecallahan@panews.com

Twitter: @ErinnPA