AUSTIN (Nexstar) — When Children At Risk attempted its annual assessment of Texas schools, the rankers knew they had to make some adjustments.
The organization, a non-partisan research and advocacy group focusing on Texas kids, tracks student progress by ranking schools based on a list of criteria including academic achievement and performance, improvement, racial equity and college readiness.
This year, as the group starts to release its findings, organizers announced a handful of other categories that factor in the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is a tough time for everyone, but it’s particularly tough for schools,” Children At Risk President and CEO Dr. Bob Sanborn said.
A new category they highlighted was “pandemic-proof,” which includes campuses that consistently earn high marks from the organization for the last three academic years and are campuses with 75% or more students classified as low-income.
“We always feel as researchers, principals understand this, when we look at children that are coming from low income families, this is the biggest group,” Sanborn said. “This is the group that we truly want to see successful, because this is the driver of our economy in many ways.”
“And so when we see schools that are doing this extraordinary job, we know it’s that they’re doing the right thing,” Sanborn added.
The only school in Central Texas to be labeled “pandemic proof” was Austin ISD’s Graham Elementary School.
“All students know that once they walk into the to Graham Elementary, they know to show up to work hard and to read,” principal Ercilia Paredes said. “That’s our motto.”
That message is so strong that it is a mainstay on the school’s sign.
Graham Elementary is predominately made up of English Language Learners, and according to Parades, tracks student progress weekly using a series of Google Sheets.
“That way the kids get individualized attention,” she explained.
In North Texas, where Dallas ISD dominated nearly all categories, the message from business leaders is education is a community effort and students are an investment.
“If we plan to be a powerhouse employment center as a state going forward, it’s imperative that all of us invest in all students so that we have the best pipeline for the workforce of the future,” United Way of Tarrant County CEO Leah King said.
“Some school districts need more than others, and students shouldn’t be penalized because of where they happen to live,” she said.
The Children At Risk school ranking lists can be found on the organization’s website. North and Central Texas regions were released on Nov. 16, with other regions expected to be released over the next two weeks.