Natalia ISD accountability rating rises to C

Natalia ISD received a district-wide rating of C in the Texas Education Agency’s 2019 accountability ratings, pulling in an overall score of 79.
The numbers are an improvement from 2018, when the district scored 59 points and was one of just nine public schools statewide to receive an F.
“The significant increase can be attributed to three years of foundational work,” Superintendent Dr. Hensley Cone said. “We focused on monitoring student performance as well as providing resources and intensive professional learning for our teachers.”
Cone said that learning began with understanding the standards that schools are expected to teach.
“While we are still focusing on ‘what we teach,’ we are now beginning to focus on ‘how to teach’ in a responsive way to maximize learning for all students,” Cone said. “In other words, we are increasing our teachers’ ‘tool-bag’ of teaching strategies.”
School Board President Eric Smith was pleased with how district employees responded to the challenge.
“If you look at the overall progress that our district made during the 2018-2019 school year, the level of dedication that was displayed by everyone involved was highly evident,” Smith said. “Instead of playing the blame game and getting overly frustrated, our district came together.”
By attaining a C rating, the district has met all the requirements necessary to end the oversight of TEA conservator Dr. Sharon Doughty, who first came to Natalia ISD as a monitor in April 2018 before her elevation to conservator in July of that year. The timing of Doughty’s departure is at the discretion of Commissioner of Education Mike Morath.
The other requirements the district has met include a FIRST (Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas) rating of C or better; the School Board engaging in research-based governance practices and earning 45 points in governance scoring in back-to-back quarterly reports to the TEA; and the district following all Texas school policies, rules, and laws.
“We followed our mission, vision, and goals, and really brought this district out of darkness and into the light,” Smith said. “We are truly blessed to have great administrators, teachers, staff, and students who worked so hard to come so far. I can’t say enough how proud I am to be Board President of such an awesome district.”
District ratings are comprised of the Student Achievement, School Progress, and Closing the Gaps categories. Letter grades are assigned to each of the three categories, as well as to districts as a whole. Seventy percent of the overall rating is based on the better of the Student Achievement and School Progress categories, while the Closing the Gap score accounts for the additional 30 percent.
The point scale for the letter grades are 90-100 for A, 80-89 for B, 70-79 for C, 60-69 for D, and 0-59 for F.
Student Achievement
Natalia scored 71 points in Student Achievement to earn a C. Grades in this category are calculated based on STAAR performance (40 percent), college, career, and military readiness (40 percent), and graduation rate (20 percent).
The district scored a 62 in STAAR performance, which is based on the average percentage of students who meet or exceed scores that are considered approaching grade level, at grade level, or master grade level.
Sixty-seven percent of students approached grade level (78 percent statewide), 31 percent met grade level (50 percent statewide), and 10 percent mastered grade level (24 percent statewide).
Natalia scored 82 points in college, career, and military readiness, which is based on the percentage of graduates who meet at least one criteria to be considered “ready.” That criteria includes completing a college class in high school, passing a college entrance exam, or earning an industry certification. Fifty-four percent of Natalia graduates met at least one criteria, while 65 percent of graduates statewide did the same.
The district scored a 65 on the graduation rate score, which is based on the percentage of students who graduate in four, five, or six years. The district had 90.7 percent of students graduate in five years, compared to 92 percent of students across the state.
School Progress
Natalia earned a B in School Progress with a score of 81. School Progress measures STAAR test results year over year. Grades are calculated by taking the high score between academic growth and relative performance.
Sixty-five percent of Natalia students grew a year academically in reading and math, good enough for a 69. Statewide, 69 percent of students grew a year.
The district earned 81 points in relative performance, which is measured by performance in Student Achievement relative to the percentage of economically disadvantaged students enrolled. Students who qualify for free and reduced lunch are considered economically disadvantaged.
Closing the Gap
Natalia scored 73 points in Closing the Gap to earn a C. Closing the Gap measures the percentage of different groups of students that performed above state goals in grade level performance, graduation rate, English language proficiency, and college, career, and military readiness.
Examples of student groups in this category include racial/ethnic groups, socioeconomic backgrounds, and English language learners.
While the district missed the goals set for grade level performance and graduation rate, it passed those set for English language proficiency and college, career, and military readiness.
Individual campuses were rated on the A-F scale for the first time, based on Student Achievement, School Progress, and Closing the Gaps.
The Early Child Center (early education through 1st grade) and Natalia Elementary (2nd through 5th grades) were combined and earned 68 points for a D rating. Last year under the pass/fail accountability rating system, both campuses were ranked Improvement Required, which TEA translated into 55 points and an F.
NES received an F in Student Achievement with 59 points, a D in School Progress with 69 points, and a D in Closing the Gaps with 65 points.
Natalia Junior High School, which serves 6th through 8th grade, earned a C rating with a total of 74 points, an improvement over last year’s rating of Met Standard (63 points, a D).
NJHS earned 70 points in Student Achievement, 75 points in School Progress, and 70 points in Closing the Gaps, for straight Cs across the board.
Natalia High School, consisting of 9th through 12th grade, earned 78 points for a C rating. Last year, NHS was rated Met Standard (62 points, a D).
NHS scored 74 points in Student Achievement for a C, 81 points in School Progress for a B, and 71 points in Closing the Gaps for a C.
Though he is proud of the improvement shown across the board, Cone isn’t satisfied.
“While we are most pleased with our students’ growth, we are not where we want to be,” Cone said. “We understand that we are ‘only as good as we are today,’ and it does not matter what you did the past year. We must continue to improve. We are striving to earn a ‘B’ rating for the 2018-2020 school year.
“Our community, students, parents, teachers, administrators, and school board members are committed to providing the highest quality education possible for all of our students.”
For results from other area districts, see separate article. To dig deeper into the data at a district- or campus-wide level, visit and search for your district or campus of choice.
By Marly Davis
Staff Writer