Learning gaps worry WISD

Trustees hear report on poor student performance amid pandemic

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light

Learning gaps caused in large part by the COVID-19 pandemic concern Waxahachie ISD administrators greatly, and trustees received a report on the issue during a Monday night regular monthly board meeting light on agenda items but heavy on academic attainment worries.

Dr. Susan Holt, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said math has become a universal indicator of student achievement when progress is assessed. Holt presented a pair of written reports to the board, including results broken down by campus and further by class. The reports can be even further broken down into student profiles to identify areas of focus for each student, Holt said.

“This could be more than a year to dig out of this,” Holt said. “You’re talking about several months, maybe two, maybe three years. I hope not. Our goal would be to make sure it’s shorter than that. That’s why it’s important to get these assessments and look at our growth patterns.”

Holt said measurement of growth throughout the school year in math will be crucial to how the district is rated by the Texas Education Agency at the end of the school term.

“As long as we are making progress, we can still be acceptable,” she said.

Holt gave further examples of lagging accomplishment. A low number of sixth-graders, 44%, are scoring “masters” or “meets” level in language (either English or Spanish). This places the rest in Tier 2 or Tier 3, she said, which requires intensive intervention or intermediation. In WISD writ large, Holt said 53% are meeting minimum standards in reading.

Poor academic performance from some students has caused the WISD to take action in the current school year.

Initially, because of a number of problems, the district ended hybrid learning at the end of the first six-week grading period, requiring students to choose between face-to-face and at-home learning.

Finally, effective Nov. 2, the district ended all virtual instruction and required students to return to classrooms, with exceptions for medical or other reasons. WISD’s face-to-face attendance was already at more than 80%, superintendent Dr. Bonny Cain said during last month’s regular meeting.

Also at last month’s meeting, Waxahachie High School principal Tonya Harris cited a massive number of failing online students, saying 59.5% of those students do not have a passing grade. Harris said a large number of these students are simply not logging in, and lack of parental supervision at home is one reason.

Other items

• Following an executive session that lasted almost two hours at the start of the meeting, trustees approved the addition of a number of professional and paraprofessional positions and a modification to the 2020-21 pay scale impacting mechanics. The hiring breakdown, according to human resources director Monica James, includes three teachers as well as one campus-based substitute teacher, one special education teacher, two elementary teacher contingencies, one junior high science teacher, four special education aides, one custodial night supervisor and two custodians.

• Teacher Ellen Green was recognized by principal Tim Day as Wedgworth Elementary’s Hero of the Month. Dr. Holt presented recognitions to Debbie Needham and Ashley Cieri of the Curriculum Instruction department; and director of elementary learning Lisa Mott presented the Special Education teacher of the Month award to Lindsey Schwagart.

• In the consent agenda, trustees approved an agreement with PowerSchool Group, LLC for records management software for the Human Resources Department; a partnership with the University of Texas-Tyler for course content for the Principal Resident Program; approval of Gifted and Talented policies and procedures; the declaration of vehicles as surplus; a local plan to identify students at risk of dropping out of school; and acceptance of reports and previous minutes.