By: Julia Deng
BIG SPRING - The Big Spring Independent School District is currently on accredited probation and one step away from losing standing as a Texas public school district, following poor performance in the 2011, 2013 and 2014 Texas Education Agency Accountability Ratings.
Six other districts and two charter schools in Texas were also placed on accredited probation by the TEA for the 2014-2015 academic year.
The TEA's tiered ranking system defines school districts as being "accredited" if they meet education standards; "accredited-warned" if they exhibit deficient performance; and "accredited-probation" if those deficiencies are not addressed.
If districts on probation do not exhibit improvement, the next step is revocation of state accreditation, or "not accredited-revoked" status.
In other words, they will no longer be recognized by the state as Texas public schools.
"I wouldn't be surprised if they don't make the cut," said Sarah Grace Ellis.
Four of her five children are currently enrolled in Big Spring public schools. She plans to move them to a neighboring district at the end of the school year.
"These schools are not up to where they need to be," said Ellis. "They're not really teaching anything and I get the feeling some of the teachers just don't care."
Michele Foehrer, whose sister teaches 7th grade math at Big Spring Junior High, said an overemphasis on STAAR testing led school officials to neglect the "actual needs of students."
"All they care about are the [STAAR] numbers right now," she told NewsWest 9. "My sister's a very devoted teacher... many of them are, but the system doesn't work. They're teaching these kids how to take this one test... but they're not learning any real skills."
Foehrer also plans to pull her children from Big Spring schools and enroll them in a neighboring district.
"Either that, or we're just going to move away to a different school district," she said.
District officials told NewsWest 9 they "made changes in the spring of last year and throughout this year to adjust and improve."
According to Big Spring ISD representative George Bancroft, a TEA monitor was assigned to the district last summer, but left after several months because "adequate improvement had been observed."
The district currently has a "Targeted Improvement Plan" in place, leadership teams tracking academic goals with data points and a recently hired "Improvement Director" to oversee necessary changes.
"As we've monitored our assessments throughout the year, we're confident we're going to improve," Bancroft told NewsWest 9.
The district's Targeted Improvement Plan can be accessed on BigSpringISD.net