Wichita Falls ISD gives academic update on Kirby, Southern Hills

Published: Feb. 14, 2023 at 5:57 PM CST
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - The Wichita Falls ISD school board received an academic update for Southern Hills Elementary and Kirby Middle School on Tuesday.

Both saw improvement in the classroom but still need to see more to avoid repercussions.

Southern Hills Elementary is in year one of improvement required status (IR) status. All of this is based on STARR test results, which determine grades every year for each campus statewide.

Southern Hills has five years to get out of IR status, but the hope for the district is that it won’t take all five years to do so.

The update given was the progress the school has seen last semester. The good news is that math and reading scores have increased, but Wichita Falls ISD Superintendent Dr. Donny Lee said they will need to continue to see progress.

“All the data shows that if we do not have them reading at a second grade level by that point then we are in a lot of trouble moving forward,” Lee said. “The data projects that we are on good track with our literacy program, so we are happy to see where Southern Hills is at and they are making good projections to get out of IR status.”

Lee said the additional help being offered inside the classroom is paying off, but it is challenging to try and hit a goal in a short amount of time.

Speaking of goals in a short amount of time, if scores don’t improve across the board at Kirby Middle School, the school could be shut down.

READ: The future of Kirby Middle School part 1

The board saw progress at Kirby through classroom practice test this fall, but Lee said it is not enough. If they were to stay on this path, projections suggest that the STARR test scores that students will take in May won’t be high enough to keep Kirby open.

Kirby is in their fifth and final year of IR status, meaning it is all or nothing this year. Kirby saw big improvements for math and reading in 7th grade, but 6th and 8th grades struggled, leaving dr. Lee worried for the STARR tests coming in about three months.

“They are going to have to be picked up,” Lee said. “That is the honest answer. 7th grade looks good, we are happy about that. 8th grade is very alarming. If we were going to take the test this week, my projection would be we wouldn’t get out of IR status based on what I am seeing in 8th grade. It is far below in reading, far below in math. 6th grade isn’t where it needs to be. Thank goodness we still have from February to basically April to fill very large gaps in a short amount of time.”

Lee said this has been a challenging process because in some instances students are a grade or two below what their reading and math skills should be at.

Whether Kirby remains open or not will be determined by the reading and math STARR test in May. The district will receive results in late August and if the scores aren’t good enough, then the TEA will choose one of two options: close down Kirby or keep it open and replace the entire board of trustees.

In either case, the district would have a one year planning period following the decision by the TEA.