Some low Fort Bend ISD school ratings show links to higher poverty

Image description
Some low FBISD school ratings linked to higher poverty
Image description
Some low FBISD school ratings linked to higher poverty

Andrea Eusan, president of Briargate Elementary School’s parent-teacher organization, recalls when the campus received an Improvement Required rating from the Texas Education Agency four years ago.

“The community felt that Briargate was such an underperforming school,” said Eusan, who has two fourth graders at Briargate. “We still have a bad name because of those many problems in the past.”

She said some of the factors that led to the rating included low test scores and lack of school staff support as well as the lower socio-economic environment in which some parents struggled to balance full-time jobs with getting their children to school on time.

Along with that rating, Briargate’s student population in 2015-16 was 75.4% economically disadvantaged, meaning they qualify for reduced-price or free lunches or other public assistance.

These factors placed Briargate, and other Fort Bend ISD schools, among Texas schools with higher economic disadvantage rates receiving lower state accountability ratings—a trend that is still evident, according to a Community Impact Newspaper analysis of TEA school accountability ratings.

FBISD recognizes this and has begun implementing programs—including the Early Literacy Center at Ridgemont Elementary School—to address the gap, FBISD Chief Academic Officer Diana Sayavedra said.

“We continue to see challenges with low student achievement in schools where a majority of children are economically disadvantaged,” Sayavedra said. “We know in order to bridge that gap there is more investment we may need to make in our district.”

Of the 75 schools in FBISD given a score in 2017-18, all schools earned the Met Standard label. However, four schools with 80% economically disadvantaged students averaged a 75 rating, while 16 campuses where less than 20% of students are economically disadvantaged received an average rating of 94, according to the data.

Measuring true accountability

Each year, TEA measures academic performance of districts and campuses in three areas: School Achievement, School Progress and Closing the Gaps.

FBISD was not rated overall in 2017-18 because of the state’s Hurricane Harvey Provision. However, the district would have received an 89, according to the TEA.

Commonwealth Elementary School has the district’s lowest percentage of economically disadvantaged students at 2.1%, receiving an accountability rating of 97 from the TEA. Meanwhile, Ridgegate Elementary School—the campus with the district’s highest level of economic disadvantage at 89.3%—received a 71.

In addition to new programming, Sayavedra said the district is also lobbying for improvements in state accountability measures, including changes to the A-F accountability rating system implemented in 2017-18.

“The reality of the state assessment is if you look at the trend, the vast majorities of As, Bs and some Cs are from more affluent schools,” she said. “The other Cs, Ds and Fs, are tied to economic disadvantage. That is telling.”

FBISD and other school districts have criticized the TEA’s A-F system since it was established in 2017 by House Bill 22 in the 85th Texas Legislature to replace the previous Met Standard/Improvement Required ratings.

TEA officials have defended the system, which is designed to make a district’s overall annual progress more easily understood than the previous ratings, said Lauren Callahan, TEA media relations manager.

However, Sayavedra said the rating only partially measures what occurs on a campus.

“A campus might have a D because of what happened in school that one day, but that is not showing the learning gap overcome, the measure of growth or the hours of mentorship from adults over a year,” she said.

Nine traditional school districts statewide received an F rating in 2017-18. Of those districts, six had a higher-than-average economic disadvantage rate, according to TEA data.

Nevertheless, Callahan told Community Impact Newspaper the TEA denies a “strong relationship” between economic disadvantage and ratings.

“We know that while there may be a moderate factor between a child’s economically disadvantaged status and results, we here at the agency know there is not a strong relationship between the two,” she said.

Socio-economic challenges

Across Texas, 58.7% of students are considered economically disadvantaged. In FBISD, 37.3% of students fall into this category, and 49 of its 75 schools exceed the state average.

The challenges for children from lower-income households fall into one of two buckets: academic or non-academic, said Kellie O’Quinn, director of research for Children at Risk’s Center of Social Measurement and Evaluation, a Houston-based nonprofit child advocacy group.

On the academic side, a child might start school already behind due to coming from an environment that did not teach early reading skills. Gaps often widen as a result, O’Quinn said.

On the non-academic side, a child may not have access to health care, nutritious and consistent meals or may be exposed to violence at a young age—all of which affect the ability to learn, O’Quinn said.

When it comes to academic success, she said the correlation between poverty and academic performance balances out as time goes by, and a culture of high expectations on campuses will actually inspire students.

“Research on high-performing, high-poverty schools shows children will live up to whatever expectations you set for them and will frequently work to rise and meet them if they also see their teachers doing the work, too,” O’Quinn said.

Schools doing well examine data to determine what skills students should be mastering and figure out if that means reteaching skills, O’Quinn said.

In addition, Teresa Edgar, associate dean of undergraduate studies for The University of Houston’s College of Education, said teachers should seek out differences in their students when creating lesson plans to incorporate perspectives and needs.

“I train teachers to think about resiliency, and what we can do to be effective teachers and role models by talking about adversity and how students can rise above it,” Edgar said.

Bridging the gap

One skills gap solution implemented by FBISD this school year is already showing progress.

In February, school officials reported that prekindergarten students enrolled in the Early Literacy Center at Ridgemont Elementary School—part of the Willowridge High School feeder pattern—increased their ability to recognize letters and their sounds to 80% from 56% during the five months of the school year.

Over that same period of time, monolingual students increased their mathematics proficiency to 91% from 80%, while bilingual student proficiency grew to 88% from 52%, according to the data.

“We believe that if students have a solid foundation in early literacy developmental skills, they will be able to transfer these skills to other academic content areas,” said Venitra Senegal, instructional officer for the Early Literary Center via email.

When Nuvia Alviter’s son, Lio Cruz, started kindergarten at the Early Literacy Center this year, she said he did not know numbers or letters, but now counts, recites letters and can read.

Alviter lives in the Ridgegate Elementary area, and said she was happy that Lio was able to participate in the Early Literacy Center. She said she expects to keep Lio in the program for first grade.

“I have seen the changes in him from day one to today, and he is now excited to learn,” she said.

FBISD plans to expand the Early Literacy Center to other elementary schools with lower literacy scores over the next three years, Sayavedra said.

Meanwhile, Briargate Elementary is now one of the high-performing, high-poverty schools. The school scored an 81 in the 2017-18 school year.

The school’s success is rooted in a support system that includes dedicated teachers, staff and parents providing focused instruction and differentiated learning, Briargate Principal LaToya Garrett said via email. The school also analyzes data and creates individualized student instruction, she said.

Eusan said she agreed that those components have contributed to the school’s success.

“We see differences in how academics have gone up in terms of testing,” Eusan said. “Parents are very happy with the new staff because they work so well together with our children to increase test scores and get back on track.”

By Christine Hall
Christine Hall joined Community Impact Newspaper in October 2018, and covers Missouri City and Fort Bend ISD. She previously reported on health care innovation for the Texas Medical Center, was a freelancer, and held various news roles at the Houston Business Journal.


“Hope is on the horizon,” Fort Bend County Judge KP George said at a press conference Jan. 4. “The vaccine is here.”
Vaccine distribution starts in Fort Bend County and more top Houston-area news

Read the most popular news from the past week from the Houston area.

Here are the latest coronavirus case count updates in Fort Bend County. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Fort Bend County sees 3,384 new coronavirus cases Jan. 15-21, up 498 from week prior

There were an average of 483.43 COVID-19 cases reported a day last week in Fort Bend County.

The Texas Department of Transportation plans to install a center, raised median on 5.8 miles of FM 1092 from Hwy. 59 to Hwy. 6. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Texas Department of Transportation to add median on FM 1092 in Missouri City

In an effort to improve the movement of traffic and reduce collisions along FM 1092 in Missouri City, the Texas Department of Transportation plans to add a median to separate the six lanes of traffic and limit left turns.

Dr. Jacquelyn Johnson-Minter, director of Fort Bend County Health & Human Services, said Jan. 21 that it has been frustrating that the supply of vaccines thus far has been unable to meet the demand. (Morgan Theophil/Community Impact Newspaper)
UPDATED: Fort Bend County COVID-19 vaccine preregistration list hits capacity

Fort Bend County is prepared to receive and administer hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 vaccinations, County Judge KP George said during a press conference Jan. 21. To do so, however, the county must receive the vaccines in the first place.

One local health system leader said he expects everyone, including those under age 65, will have access to the vaccine within the next 90 days. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Houston-area health system leaders talk progress, hurdles during COVID-19

Officials from CHI St. Luke’s Health and UTMB Health said community members must remain vigilant as case counts climb but that they expect the current surge to peak by early February.

During a North Houston Association meeting Jan. 20, Jazz Hamilton—first vice president with the Retail Brokerage Services Group for CBRE—discussed how the future of retail will likely be shaped by the conveniences to which consumers have become accustomed amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Ronald Winters/Community Impact Newspaper)
Pandemic-induced retail conveniences are here to stay, official says

According to Jazz Hamilton, first vice president with the Retail Brokerage Services group for CBRE, between January and November of 2020, consumers spent almost $550 billion online—a 33% increase from 2019.

In the Sugar Land and Missouri City area, a number of seats will be on the ballot, including ones on Sugar Land City Council and the Fort Bend ISD board of trustees. (Community Impact staff)
Filing period open for Sugar Land City Council, Fort Bend ISD board of trustees elections

See which races are on the May 1 ballot and who has filed to run so far.

Fort Bend ISD is beginning the process of finding a new superintendent after Charles Dupre announced his intent to resign by December 2021. (Claire Shoop/Community Impact Newspaper)
Fort Bend ISD board to begin hunt for new superintendent by hiring search firm

The board is expected meet Feb. 8 to deliberate and Feb. 17 to interview search firms.

In addition to vaccine hubs, there are also smaller community vaccine providers throughout Texas, such as pharmacies, that may also have the vaccine available. (Eva Vigh/Community Impact Newspaper)
EXPLAINED: When, where and how Texans can receive the COVID-19 vaccine

As Texas is still in the early stages of rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine, many Texans are still unsure about where, when and how they can get inoculated.

The barbecue eatery is the second Killen's Restaurant Group venture to launch in The Woodlands area. (Courtesy Killen's Barbecue)
Killen's Barbecue opens in The Woodlands and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Houston area.

Hoover Oaks Memory Care and Assisted Living will be located at 1722 Eldridge Road in Sugar Land. (Courtesy Hoover Oaks Memory Care and Assisted Living)
New memory care and assisted-living facility coming to Sugar Land in spring 2021

Hoover Oaks Memory Care and Assisted Living will provide 24-hour assistance to 16 residents.