Spring ISD State of the District focuses on strategic plan progress, future projects

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During the second annual Spring ISD State of the District on Jan. 30, Superintendent Rodney Watson discussed the district’s progress since its five-year strategic plan launched in 2015 as well as some of the challenges the district is facing and how it plans to address those.

One of the most notable challenges Watson said SISD is dealing with is declining student enrollment. In the 2015-16 school year, SISD had a total student enrollment of 37,022; by the 2017-18 school year, that enrollment had dropped to 35,959 students. Watson said this trend is due largely in part to a slowing population growth across the entire Greater Houston area, as well as a growing presence of charter schools locally.

“Out of the new students in the Houston metropolitan area, there’s a greater influx of students who are going to charter schools,” Watson said. “We’ve seen an uptick in charter schools moving into the Spring area, so we’re going to continue to monitor that as well as we’re forecasting for the future.”

Also contributing to this decline, Watson said SISD data indicates roughly 5 percent of fifth-grade students opt out of the district upon entering sixth grade—a trend the district hopes to change with the opening two specialty middle schools in the 2019-20 school year.

To view the entire 2019 Spring ISD State of the District presentation, click here. 

Accomplishments
Now in Year 4 of the five-year strategic plan, Watson said SISD has made great strides in meeting academic goals after implementing new curriculum and investing in special education.

Since the launch of SISD’s five-year strategic plan in 2015:
• The percent of SISD students who reached “meets grade level” increased on 16 of the 22 STAAR tests in 2017-18, and the percent of students who reached “masters grade level” increased on 12 of the 22 tests that same year.
• Nearly 70 percent of SISD elementary campuses made solid year-over-year gains in third-grade reading, according to the 2017-18 STAAR test results.
• From 2016-17 to 2017-18, STAAR passing rates for SISD students in grades three to eight who receive special education services increased by 11 percent in math and 6 percent in reading.
• SISD’s end-of-course exam scores increased on four out of five of the subjects, according to the 2017-18 EOC exam results. The only subject without growth was U.S. History.
• SISD campuses received 28 percent more Texas Education Agency distinctions in 2017-18 than they received in 2015-16.

Additionally, since 2015, SISD has experienced a 41 percent increase in AP exams taken by students, a 40 percent increase in AP exams in which students scored at least a three and a 20 percent increase in middle school student enrollment in pre-AP courses.

The district has also had a 29 percent increase in pre-K enrollment and, as a result, a 17 percent increase in kindergarten students who are reading at or above their grade level between the 2015-16 school year and the 2017-18 school year.

“We know that literacy is the primary focus,” Watson said. “ We’re seeing that there are more students that are on level in kindergarten as a result [of our preschool and pre-K programs]. If our students are not reading on grade level by third grade, there’s a very good likelihood that they will not be successful.”

SISD has also experienced a 127 percent increase in the number of students participating in career and technical education enrichment opportunities.

“We’re looking for individuals that can provide internships, job shadowing, career exploration, field experiences, technical support or even college visits,” Watson said. “With the 127 percent increase in students who are enrolled in our CTE program, we need more partnerships to provide [students]with those externships that we’re looking for.”

From an employment standpoint, since 2015, teacher turnover in SISD has decreased from 27 to 23 percent, first-year teachers only make up 2 percent of SISD’s teacher population instead of 13 percent, and the percentage of teachers with master’s degrees has increased from 24 to 28 percent.

“We know that our employees could go anywhere,” Watson said. “We know that there’s a shortage of teachers and educators throughout the state and the country. But once again, when we think about the individuals who are employed in Spring ISD, it is about a higher calling; it is about a higher purpose, because we have one goal. And that one goal is greater achievement for every student in our district.”

Future plans
With hopes of capitalizing upon previous accomplishments and addressing challenges, Watson said SISD has several plans for future growth.

Some of these plans include the addition of the following new facilities:
• Springwoods Village Middle School opening in the 2019-20 school year;
• Spring ISD Leadership Academy opening in the 2019-20 school year;
• a new campus for Roberson Middle School opening in the 2019-20 school year;
• ninth-grade centers for Dekaney, Westfield and Spring high schools opening in August 2020;
• Teach Up Spring, a professional development center, to open in May; and
• a replacement stadium with a Spring ISD memorial set to open this fall.

SISD will also relocate its Spring Early College Academy to the campus of Lone Star College-North Harris this fall and will continue to focus on its arts integration initiative.

On top of these additions, Watson said SISD will launch a new learning management system, Schoology, in 2019 to help consolidate curriculum, assignments and grades for teachers, students and parents.

“It’s going to help us really to be able to personalize education, because we know that one size doesn’t fit all,” Watson said. “It’s going to help us meet the needs of students who are above level that need to be pushed to higher heights, those students that are on-level, but also it’s going to help us provide remediation for those students that need support as well.”

For more information about the 2019 Spring ISD State of the District, click here.

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Hannah Zedaker
Born and raised in Cypress, Texas, Hannah Zedaker graduated from Sam Houston State University in 2016 with a bachelor's degree in mass communication and a minor in political science. She began as an intern with Community Impact Newspaper in 2015 and was hired upon graduation as a reporter for The Woodlands edition in May 2016. In January 2019, she was promoted to serve as the editor of the Spring/Klein edition where she covers Spring ISD and Harris County Commissioners Court, in addition to business, development and transportation news.
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