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Providing solutions to an empty room

By Lorenzo Salinas



It was a well-made presentation plan, but there was hardly anyone to hear it.

Thomas Jefferson Middle School’s administration hosted a comprehensive support campus public meeting Thursday evening within its cafeteria on Jefferson Drive. The meeting was intended to look at ways to improve student success among subsets in the student population.

While the meeting was advertised as public and parents were encouraged to attend, no one outside school officials showed up. The meeting was legally required due to the school not meeting the standard in one particular domain of accountability.

“Last year was a very trying year with Harvey and everything it brought. We had a lot of teachers and students affected by the flood…” Principal Randy Lupton said. “But we’re not making excuses. We wished we would have gotten over the bar.”

While Port Arthur Independent School District received a waiver from the state of Texas for its 2017-2018 Texas Education Agency Accountability Ratings in deference to Harvey, Jefferson Middle School did not receive one from the federal government.

“The state system was not the issue,” Lupton said. “But we came up short in the federal system.”

According to criteria from Every Student Succeeds Act, a successor to No Child Left Behind Act, Jefferson Middle School met standards in two out of three domains: Student Achievement and School Progress. The school did not meet the standard in the third domain: Closing the Gaps.

“We needed a 48 to pass and we got a 47.4,” Lupton said. “If it had been a 47.5, it would have been rounded up to a 48. We lost by 0.1.”

Accordingly, Jefferson administration held its campus meeting to highlight a targeted improvement plan, or TIP, for 2017-2018 accountability measures.

“What we’ve done, we’ve assembled a leadership team composed of department leaders in core curriculum,” Lupton said. “We’ve also got other teachers that represent elective courses and fine arts.”

The team received input from Port Arthur ISD’s central administration such as the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction and the chief education reform officer.

In addition, the federal government provided additional funding for Thomas Jefferson as well as a personal service provider.

Lupton was prepared to give a TIP presentation that highlighted two problem areas as identified by the leadership team and administration:

  • Not all teachers and instructional leaders are sufficiently trained to make effective changes to instruction based on data and student records.
  • Sub groups are not reaching proficiency or showing adequate growth causing gaps in achievement.

Proposed solutions would require additional, ongoing training for teachers and closing the academic performance gaps among sub groups by 10 percent respectively.

Lupton and officials broke down solutions in a short, intermediate and long-term pathway. Factors like Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills and periodic student evaluation and additional training would be implemented.

Thomas Jefferson officials and the PAISD administration advertised the meeting through a combination of social media, in-house ads and sent students home with fliers for the parents.

“We also visited this subject during our open house,” Lupton said. “We wanted to satisfy the letter of the law and have this additional forum.”

Still, some parents were reached directly Thursday evening when Jefferson officials coopted a band meeting held during the same time to discuss TIP.

“We met with the legal requirement, but we don’t like to operate with just meeting things; we want to exceed things,” Lupton said.

He said school officials would consider hosting another public forum.

“We’re not required to do so, but we appreciate parents’ input,” Lupton said.