In coordination with a meeting of its district improvement team, Waxahachie ISD held a public hearing on its Academic Excellence Indicator System report Tuesday.

Deputy Superintendent David Truitt presented a variety of information relating to the district as a whole from the 144-page report. Individual campus reports will be sent home with each student this week, he said.

The report will be posted online via the district’s Web site and a hard copy also will be available to the public at the administration offices.

The all-encompassing AEIS includes the latest available data: from attendance and dropout figures for the 2005-2007 school years to TAKS results from 2006-2008.

“Some of it is older data, but it is still valuable when we look at it,” he said.

The district and its 35-member district improvement team, which has a membership of about two-thirds educators and one-third public, are able to utilize the information in such areas as curriculum and staffing.

“This report will help guide decisions that are made in the district,” Truitt said.

Starting in May of each year, it takes several months for the Texas Education Agency to compile all of the data into reports for the state’s 1,031 school districts. The reports are released in November, with each district required to hold a public hearing prior to a formal presentation of the AEIS to its school board.

“It’s really, really good data,” Truitt said.

This most recent report highlighted WISD’s best-ever results on TEA ratings (2007-2008): one exemplary school – Wedgeworth Elementary; four recognized campuses – Waxahachie Global High School, Turner Middle School, Northside Elementary and Dunaway Elementary; and five academically acceptable campuses – Waxahachie High School of Choice, Waxahachie Ninth Grade Academy, Waxahachie High School, Waxahachie Junior High and Shackelford Elementary. Marvin Elementary, as a pre-kindergarten and kindergarten campus only, is not subject to rating due to there being no TAKS for those grades. Overall, the district was awarded an academically acceptable rating.

Truitt noted that two of the recognized campuses – Northside and Turner – missed exemplary status by only a very small margin, about seven and three students, respectively. Almost all of the campuses also received gold awards based on performance, according to the report.

As part of the report, Truitt reviewed the district’s snapshot date of Oct. 31, which captures a baseline of student data for TEA purposes.

“Every district on that date submits data about who is sitting in their chairs,” he said.

The 2008 snapshot indicates WISD had 6,648 students on that date, an increase of 109 from the 2007-2008 school year. The student population has increased by more than 300 since 2006-2007, when the count was 6,322.

Demographically, the district is made up of 52.01 percent white students, 32.5 percent Hispanic, 14.4 percent African-American, .01 percent Asian or Pacific Islander and .01 percent Native American. Of the student population, 49.7 percent is considered economically disadvantaged, with 44 percent classified as at-risk.

Out of 25 areas when comparing TAKS data district-wide, WISD made gains in 24 of those, Truitt said, reporting the lone exception reflected a decrease of only 1 percent.

Noting the improvements that can be seen in the data comparisons, he said, “We’re very excited about that. We’re going in the right direction.”

While the report is a good one overall, the work continues for the district.

“We’re working extra hard with some of our subgroups to get them the help they need,” Truitt said. “On the forefront of our minds every day is how to help the kids. … Every student counts, every sub-group counts, at all levels every day.”

Truitt also highlighted the district’s graduation and low dropout rates.

“We have some of the best numbers in the area on this,” he said, comparing WISD’s 91.6 percent graduation rate to Region 10’s 77.1 percent and the state’s 78 percent.

Truitt described the district’s efforts as “unrelenting” when it comes to keeping students in school and praised the cooperative relationship with Justice of the Peace Jackie Miller Jr. and Constable Terry Nay. He also discussed several programs utilized when working with students at risk of dropping out, saying, “We’ve got all kinds of things going on to get those kids through.”

Another part of the report includes data on teacher tenure and qualifications, with WISD teachers averaging 12.7 years of experience as compared to the state-wide average of 11.3. WISD teachers also, on average, stay with the district longer, 7.9 years compared to a state-wide average of 7.4. The district also has a lower turnover rate of 13.5 percent as compared to 15.2 for the state.

The AEIS report has its origins in 1984, when the Texas Legislature first sought to emphasize student achievement as the basis for accountability, according to information on TEA’s Web site. Since the release of the first AEIS in 1990-1991, the report has evolved as the result of legislation, recommendations of advisory committees and the commissioner of education, State Board of Education actions and development by TEA researchers and analysts, according to the site.

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