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Kilgore ISD plan aims to avoid state takeover

By Glenn Evans
May 21, 2013 at 11 p.m.

Kilgore ISD school trustees have sent the state their plan to address low reading and math scores among black and Hispanic students.

"We're at that point where it's gotten serious," Superintendent Cara Cooke said Tuesday, the morning after Kilgore ISD trustees OK'd a Corrective Action Plan that hinges on a rewritten curriculum for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

"We're trying to fix what we created at the top (grades) while we make sure this doesn't happen at the bottom," said Cooke, hired in March to help turn around a district on the path to state takeover.

The district's about-face starts with a busy summer for a nine-member curriculum team Cooke formed from existing staff members who previously helped teachers in more of a hodge-podge fashion. The curriculum overhaul won't require any lost classroom time for teachers, contrasting with a plan pitched to trustees in April, thanks to common planning times built into each teacher's 2013-14 schedule.

Kilgore ISD is in its first year at Stage 3 of federal No Child Left Behind sanctions

"When you reach Stage 3, that's the highest level you can reach in terms of severity," Texas Education Agency spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said. "However, then you start going into Stage 3-Year 1, Stage 3-Year 2."

A third year without showing sufficient improvement can bring much more direct state intervention in a district.

"We can change that (Corrective Action Plan) to appoint a monitor or have someone run the school or abolish the whole district," Culbertson said. "So, Stage 3 is serious, because you've reached the pinnacle. And if you continue to remain at Stage 3 there will be stronger action."

Kilgore trustees on Monday approved their Corrective Action Plan:

"Research supports that more progress can be made in an aligned curriculum," the plans reads. "Principals also report an adequately talented teaching staff. An aligned curriculum will help Kilgore ISD discover gaps in learning."

Those gaps include a 60-percent passing rate of blacks on the state math exam during the 2011-12 school year. That was down from 71 percent the previous school year, or 233 of 329 black students tested.

Seventy-five percent of Hispanic students passed the state math test in 2011-12, down from 81 percent the year before that. There were 482 Hispanic students tested in 2011-12.

White students, meanwhile, dipped from 86-percent passage to 84 percent during the same two years, with 1,900 white students the more recent year.

And math scores for economically disadvantaged students fell from 76-percent passage to 71 percent from 2010-11 to 2011-12.

Reading scores were higher but followed a similar pattern with minority and economically disadvantaged students.

Cooke called consistently lower test scores for economically disadvantaged and minority students "the billion dollar question." Public schools, by their nature, take in the spectrum of students, she said.

"When you have them coming from all types of backgrounds and experiences, it's a shame we label them," she said. The cause of low performance "really goes back through kids' experiences. Some of these kids in here, they are read to, they are spoken to, they go to vacations all around the world. They come to kindergarten with a vast amount of experience."

The plan approved by trustees on Monday will place the nine-member curriculum committee with trainers from the Region VII Education Service Center four days this summer. Meanwhile, the team will prepare together for the coming school year.



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