WISD reviews STAAR data, updated COVID protocols

Reporter: Ellie Mahan

August 18, 2022

The Whitney ISD Board of Trustees met in a regular session Monday, August 15, to discuss the preliminary 2022 STAAR test results, approve a retention stipend for all WISD employees and review the updated Safe Return To In-Person Instruction Guide, which outlines the school’s COVID-19 protocols for the year.

Under Whitney’s 2022-2023 updated Safe Return To In-Person Instruction Plan, those with confirmed cases of COVID-19 may return to school after all three of the following criteria are met: it has been at least five days since symptoms first appeared; the individual has shown an improvement in symptoms, and at least 24 hours have passed since the individual has been fever free without the use of fever-reducing medications.

Those who come in close contact with an individual with a confirmed case of COVID-19 will have the option of quarantining for five days if they have not been fully vaccinated. This applies to individuals who are considered a close contact due to someone in the immediate household being confirmed with COVID-19.

Another modification to the return to school plan, Whitney’s elementary and intermediate schools will allow visitors during lunch. A complete version of the plan, updated Monday, July 18, can be found on the homepage of the district’s website, http://www.whitney.k12.tx.us. This plan will be reviewed every six months and updated as needed until September 30, 2023.

Melody Haley, assistant superintendent, summarized the district’s planned expenditures for ESSER II and ESSER III, which are similar to last year’s use of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds. A few initiatives the district will spend its ESSER funds on include: summer school, paraprofessionals for social-emotional learning, an additional counselor from Klaras Center For Families, retention stipends for staff members, math interventionists and a leadership program called “Capturing Kids’ Hearts.”

Students, teachers, administration and counselors were surveyed on the school’s ESSER priorities. Of those surveyed, 71.3% responded that Whitney ISD’s current plan to provide continuity of services is currently successful.

A retention stipend of $1,500 for all WISD employees was approved. Employees will receive half of this stipend in October and the other half of it in April.

Melissa Marbut, director of assessment and accountability, presented the preliminary results of 2022 STAAR tests. The official STAAR results were set to come out Friday, August 12, and the district accountability rating was set to come out Monday, August 15. The official STAAR results and accountability rating were not available as of The Lakelander’s press time.

When presenting the intermediate school preliminary STAAR data, Marbut stated that many students across the district showed growth in their STAAR performance, meaning they scored equal to or better than they did on last year’s test in the same subject.

Layna Philipp, Whitney Intermediate School’s newly instated principal, spoke on plans the intermediate school has in place to promote student growth by supporting both teachers and students.

Philipp said, “We have designated groups for reading and math that will target specific skills for our lower-level learners as well as our upper-level learners so that those aren’t being left out. One of the plans I have is to revamp our special populations program, special education, 504, to ensure that our struggling learners get everything they need to be successful. If we can push up our approaches, that is only going to pour into meets and masters.” Phillipp said that the intermediate school administrators are analyzing the data and ensuring the teachers have all the resources they need.

A highlight for the high school was that in all five end of course exam subjects—U.S. history, algebra I, biology, English I and English II—the preliminary results show that Whitney had a higher passing rate when compared with the passing rate of all the students in the state.

High school Principal Amy Leech said that she has noticed growth throughout the district this year with scores, and one thing that she took away from the leadership program “Capturing Kids’ Hearts” was that good scores represent more than just knowledgeable teachers. They represent teachers who care.

“These scores aren’t about programs that we have in place. It’s about investing in our kids. We love those kids first. We build trust and relationships. You see the results, and that’s what we’re starting to see,” Leech said. “It’s about loving the kids first, and this is secondary. I know it’s important, but it’s secondary.”

Sally Hayes, who is WHS’s English department head and a teacher of English Enrichment and English IV, said, “I would put us up against a lot of teachers in the way that we invest in our kids. The English tests are very, very difficult. We go in completely blind, in terms of what they’re going to read, what they’re going to respond to, the prompt. We can teach you how to address a prompt, but you have to pull from your experience. I think we’ve done a good job at teaching our kids how to do this… I’m really pleased with the teachers in the department and what they do and the effort that they put in.”

Laura Hunt, director of curriculum and instruction, presented a comparison of the 2019 STAAR test results to the preliminary STAAR test results for this year. She acknowledged that these past three years have been challenging for teachers across the nation due to the pandemic, yet WISD was able to improve its testing results. Based on the preliminary scores, in some areas, Whitney went from under-performing compared to the state and region in 2019 to not only catching up with but surpassing the state and region in 2022.

The four scoring categories of STAAR tests are: did not meet (not passing), approaches (passed below grade level) meets (passed on grade level) and masters (passed above grade level).

In 2019, Whitney had a higher percentage of students pass at the approaches level than the region did in seven out of 20 content areas. Whitney’s 2022 preliminary results indicated that Whitney had a higher percentage of students pass at the approaches level than the region did in 15 out of 20 content areas. In 2019, Whitney’s passing at approaches percentages were above the state in six out of 20 areas. In 2022, Whitney had a higher or equivalent percentage pass at the approaches rate than the state did in 13 out of 20 areas.

In the meets category (passing on grade level), in 2019 Whitney performed above the region in four out of 20 subject areas. The 2022 preliminary results showed that Whitney had a higher percentage of students pass at the meets level compared to the region in 12 out of 20 subject areas. In 2019, Whitney’s meets passing percentages were at or above the state in three out of 20 content areas, whereas in 2022, Whitney’s meets passing percentages were at or above the state in 11 out of 20 subjects.

The board also briefly discussed the 2022-2023 budget, and Haley stated that the district will continue to look for ways to increase staff salaries in the future by cutting other expenses in any way possible. The board will hold a public meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, August 29, to discuss the budget and tax rate for the coming year. Public participation is encouraged. See the district’s notice in this edition for more information about the proposed budget and tax rate.

In other news, Jason Sneed, board secretary, was contacted when an individual wanted to donate a 50-foot flag pole and a flag for Wildcat Stadium. A local company will be building the pole and putting it in place.

The superintendent announced that a Region 12 superintendent forum on school safety was set for last week. He also said he had upcoming plans for several meetings with the school safety team as well as local law enforcement and guardians.

After a closed session, the board approved new guardians, who are the select individuals of WISD campuses who are armed in case of emergency.

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