Midlothian Independent School District overall state testing scores may look average to some but there are several high points.

The Texas Education Agency released it TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) scores earlier this month with Midlothian rated as Academically Acceptable for the fourth year in a row.

But as with most complex education issues the devil is in the details.

MISD Superintendent Dr. J.D. Kennedy helped explain Midlothian’s scores and said he was pleased with how the district had performed in several areas, but realized there are areas that need improving.

“We are absolutely proud of our students and teachers,” said Kennedy. “They are to be commended for their hard work and dedication this year.”

TEA increased ratings standards in 2006-07 by five percentage points for every subject for ratings categories for both Academically Acceptable and Recognized. This raised the bar for all students and teacher by making the test harder.

“2007 Academically Acceptable standards increased from 60 to 65 percent for reading/English language arts (ELA), writing, and social studies, 40 to 45 percent for mathematics and 35 to 40 percent for science,” Kennedy said. “The 2007 Recognized standard increased from 70 to 75 percent for all subjects. The standards for earning an Exemplary rating remained at 90 percent for every subject.”

One sub-group in science kept MISD from receiving a Recognized district rating. All other performance results were within the Recognized criteria rating.

“The district’s accountability rating is determined by the scores of all students tested in grades 3-11 and the performance level of each individual group - African American, Hispanic, White and Economically Disadvantaged,” said Kennedy. “On the science TAKS, African-Americans and Hispanics scored lower than the 75 percent required to earn a “recognized” rating. However, our African American student population is not large enough to count in science. Science is only tested in grades fifth, 10 and 11 for 2007 accountability.”

For a sub-group to count at the campus/district level, there must be at least 30 students who represent 10 percent of the total test takers or if a sub-group consists of 50 or more students it automatically counts.

That subgroup in three grades represents 10 percent of the district’s student population. It was the second year in a row that a sub-group score kept MISD from being a recognized district.

“Accountability ratings released by the Texas Education Agency show that Midlothian ISD will be rated as Academically Acceptable, based on state assessment results for the 2006-07 school year,” Kennedy explained. “Six of Midlothian ISD’s campuses received Recognized rating and two campuses received Academically Acceptable.”

Campus Ratings:

MISD individual school rankings for 2007 are:

T.E. Baxter Elementary - Recognized J.R. Irvin Elementary - Recognized Longbranch Elementary - Academically Acceptable (appeal pending for Recognized status) Mt. Peak Elementary - Recognized J.A. Vitovsky - Recognized Frank Seale Middle School - Recognized Walnut Grove Middle School - Recognized Midlothian High School - Academically Acceptable

MISD individual school rankings for 2006 were:

T.E. Baxter Elementary - Recognized J.R. Irvin Elementary - Recognized Longbranch Elementary - Exemplary Mt. Peak Elementary - Recognized J.A. Vitovsky - Recognized Frank Seale Middle School - Recognized Walnut Grove Middle School - Recognized Midlothian High School - Academically Acceptable

The 2006-07 TAKS scores brought some good news for the district: at every grade level in every area tested, student performance on the TAKS surpassed statewide levels.

On the 2007 test, performance for all students was above 90 percent in reading/language arts (95 percent), writing (96 percent), social studies (97 percent). Performance for all students was above 80 percent in math (88 percent) and science (84 percent).

Kennedy also pointed to several 2007 TAKS Highlights:

District wide science TAKS scores are 15 percentage points higher than the state average. Over 40 percent third grade reading students and fifth grade math students achieved Commended Performance. Over 60 percent of sixth and eighth graders achieved Commended Performance in reading and over 55 percent of the eighth graders achieved Commended Performance in social studies. Over 40 percent exit level students achieved Commended Performance in ELA & Social Studies.

One of the main concerns of the district was the drop of Longbranch Elementary from Exemplary to Academically Acceptable and a classification or coding error at Baxter Elementary.

“We do have an appeal for Longbranch and Baxter Elementary due to campus coding errors of the student expectation levels for the 4th grade SDAA writing test,” said Kennedy. “If TEA grants the appeals, we anticipate Longbranch’s rating to increase to a Recognized status. Baxter, however, will remain Recognized.”

Kennedy said MISD did receive an accurate rating in 2007 according to Texas Education Agency’s state accountability rating system, rules and regulations.

But he also said the district was already at work to pull those ratings up.

“In addition to our current instructional interventions such as staff development training, curriculum alignment and benchmarking, Midlothian ISD has a new data analysis system (INOVA) to help us analyze our data, identify our weaknesses, and adapt our instructional strategies for every student,” said Kennedy. “The campus/district will utilize this system to develop and target instructional strategies to provide interventions within the classroom setting and before/after school.”

Kennedy felt students and teachers had worked hard on TAKS but there was room for improvement.

A career educator, Kennedy recognizes the importance of grades but he also knows the weaknesses of testing and ranking a student or a school district.

“The system has become extremely complicated and the passing standards will continue to increase,” said Kennedy. “As a result, most districts find themselves Academically Acceptable even when most of their campuses are Recognized or Exemplary.”

Like any report card, TEA rankings are a reflection on students, teachers and the district as a whole.

State rankings are closely watched by communities. Families use this ranking when looking to move to an area. The state even has a program that gives teachers bonuses through the state’s Texas Educator Excellence Grants program.

MISD has detailed state testing data and scores for subjects, grades and schools at www.midlothian-isd.net.

TEA has provided a 2007 Frequently Asked Questions to help parents understand the sophisticated accountability system www.tea.state.tx.us/perfreport/account/2007/faq.html.