Some parents have launched a petition drive against parts of a plan to balance student populations by shifting lines that determine which Clear Creek Independent School District campuses children are assigned to attend.
The parents say they’re worried about the quality of their children’s education; district officials argue the parents are focusing too much on one set of numbers determined by the state of Texas, however.
The conflict raises a question about what parents should look at when assessing a campus. The answer is more than one thing, a professor of education argues.
On its face, this dispute boils down to one number — 11.
Gilmore Elementary School received a rating of 94 overall, 11 above Hall Elementary’s score of 83 overall, according to the 2018 Texas Education Agency accountability ratings. The schools finished 2017 even closer with ratings of 89 and 95.
If Clear Creek Independent School District’s Board of Trustees OKs new campus boundaries on Feb. 25, then some students living in the Rustic Oaks neighborhood will transfer from Gilmore Elementary School to Hall Elementary School next school year.
And the parents are less than thrilled by that prospect.
“We moved to this neighborhood so my kids could go to Gilmore,” said Karen Banquet, a Rustic Oaks resident.
More than 60 parents have signed a petition against the move, citing concern about lower accountability scores and the fact that Hall is an older building, Banquet said.
Hall Elementary also uses portable buildings to teach students, Banquet said.
District officials argue all their schools are solid, and that there’s more to evaluating a school than just state accountability scores.
“Each school has its own unique flavor,” Trustee Jay Cunningham said.
The Clear Creek district isn’t alone in calling for more local accountability in evaluating schools. Local educators have increasingly developed local accountability measures and pushed for less focus on standardized testing.
Truly evaluating a school, however, requires a bit of both approaches, said Keith Butcher, a clinical assistance professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Houston.
“There are so many factors involved in whether a student has a positive school experience,” Butcher said. “One of the strongest indicators is a school’s climate and culture. And a lot of those factors can’t be foretold by looking at state assessment results. You have to look at other measures.”
At the same time, parents shouldn’t ignore state testing results either, Butcher said.
“You have to look at multiple measures, and I don’t mean contrived measures, or that schools should create their own assessments and accountability,” Butcher said. “These should be established school climate surveys and parent satisfaction surveys — validated instruments with some reliability in what’s reported.”
Leaders at Hall Elementary School noted the campus’ various clubs and organizations, including a STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math club, as well as individual attention as strengths of the school.
The school next school year also will become the district’s second E-STEM magnet school, officials said.
“We feel like we give students a strong foundation and help them grow in their passions,” Principal Stephanie King said.
And parents at the school on Thursday agreed.
“It’s an awesome school,” Keri Dabney said. “I understand their trepidation, but it’s awesome. And King is an excellent principal.”
A committee of 32 parents and residents has proposed moving the Rustic Oaks neighborhood to Hall Elementary as part of revised boundary maps spurred, in large part, because of Florence Campbell Elementary School’s August opening.
Construction of Florence Campbell Elementary School, the 27th elementary school in the district, is one of many projects funded through a $487 million bond voters approved in 2017, officials said.
After a series of town hall meetings, the committee actually revised its recommendations, reducing the number of schools affected and decreasing how many students will move because of the changes.
Parents evaluating an elementary school shouldn’t just focus on the school, but also the middle schools and high schools they feed in to, Butcher said.