For the second consecutive year, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) released its evaluation of school districts across the state. Little Elm ISD improved by seven percentage points in the last year, coming in at an 85 rating out of 100 possible points. The progress places the overall school district with a “B” grade, an average of three different factors.
The agency roots its evaluation process on student achievement, student progress and closing the gaps, according to TEA. Student performances on STARR testing, the state-wide standardized test that is administered at the end of every school year, is one of the main sources the agency uses to measure growth in these categories. As a state, only 319 school districts received an “A” letter grade. Among the local districts, Frisco ISD scored an “A” with a 93.
Little Elm ISD, which garnered a 78 in the inaugural rankings, obtained its highest marks in the student achievement category, with an 86. According to the TEA, student achievement is marked by “how much students know at the end of the school year.” There are subgroups that go into the making of this 86. STARR Performance, college, career and military readiness and graduation rates all are factored into the final number. The district logged a 90 out of 100 when it came to graduation rates.
The category that lagged behind for the district was school progress. This is a metric that measures how much improvement students are making from year to year on their standardized tests as well as other “relevant performances,” according to the TEA. Little Elm was below the state average when it came to the percentage of students that make progress -- 69 percent of district improved and the state average is over 70 percent of the student body.
The numbers also breakdown the district by individual schools. Little Elm ISD has nine schools in its jurisdiction and just one high school. Only one school, Prestwick K-8 Stem Academy, received an “A” with a 93. Six schools, Chavez, Brent, Hackberry, Lakeview and Oak Point Elementary and Lakeside Middle School, all earned “C” grades. The lowest performing school was Brent Elementary with a 72 average. Little Elm high school authored a B.
Superintendent Daniel Gallagher noted points of progress for the district, which grew overall. He also highlighted the individual efforts of schools like Lakeside Middle School that jumped from a “D” to a “C” in one year. While the progress was there, Gallagher, like many other superintendents across the state, did not wholeheartedly accept the evaluation. The objections, by many, have come from the fact that these rankings are based on STARR results that do not fully encompass the totality of a student’s educational experience.
“Although we are extremely pleased to see Little Elm ISD improve from a “C” to a “B” in just one year, we believe a single letter grade in no way provides parents and community members with a true representation of the opportunities we are providing students at Little Elm ISD,” Gallagher said.
The superintendent underscored measures that he, and the district, have spearheaded that have contributed to the uptick in performance. These are the same measures that Gallagher hopes will continue to have Little Elm ISD on the rise in the future. Among these were curriculum audits and the creation of the “Destination 2025” plan that emphasizes innovative ways of educating students and preparing them for after graduation.
“We still have a lot of work to do, but I believe we are making progress toward our common goal, and that’s providing a great education for our kids. It is the hard work of our teachers, staff and campus leaders who are moving the needle for the progress we are seeing in the district,” Gallagher said.