Building on improvement

SAN BENITO — Texas school districts received their first official letter grades Wednesday from the Texas Education Agency.

San Benito’s Consolidated Independent School District received a C, one of two districts in all of Cameron County to receive the average grade. All other districts scored at least a B.

But, Superintendent of schools Dr. Nate Carman thinks “one letter grade or score at the end of the year is not truly indicative” of everything that takes place within a school district.

That’s not the only reason he is not disappointed with the “high C” the school district received. He described the new grading system by TEA as “a partial evaluation.”

The new grading system for Texas schools is ranked on an A through F scale. This is the first year the districts were graded in this manner.

“Our score was two points from being a B,” Carman said. “In some areas we were rated a B, just not overall. Some good things showed through, but putting one letter on what a school district with 11,000 kids does, is not exactly comprehensive.”

Carman focused on the positives. He said the district saw improvement in 16 out of 22 testing areas compared to the state of Texas. San Benito’s elementary schools “had the majority of growth.”

“As those kids feed up in our feeder patterns to middle schools and then high schools, we think our students will be more prepared and those results should come out higher over the next few years,” Carman said.

The district plans to continue focusing on how it’s using the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills resource system. This will be done by working on the horizontal and vertical alignment between the instruction that takes place in classrooms and state expectations.

Additionally, the district partnered with the International Center for Leadership and Education. The center will help San Benito with its rigor and relevance framework.

“Hopefully we work to make our instruction more relevant to our kids and help them be more successful,” Carman said.

He believes the district’s superintendent and central administration recent turnover rate played a role in the grade they received.

As a result of this, Carman said “it would have been difficult to have any one solid system or platform set in place with that many changes.”

“For a period of less than four years, if you count the outgoing superintendent to me, nine different people sat in that chair,” Carman said. “So, I think now we’re established because we have a set system on how we’re going to implement the TEKS for the state of Texas.”

The superintendent believes, “it will simply be a matter of building and improving the district’s set system,” but says the school district is “on the right track.”

“I know the great job that our teachers are doing. There also is great work that our principals are doing in supporting them, helping them align their instruction and using data to target difficult areas,” Carman said he is also “proud of the work and effort students have done.”

“As a whole, our elementary schools did very well,” he said. “Our middle schools did not do as well, but every one of them showed improvement. There’s a lot to be proud of and build on for next year.”