As I’ve discussed here on the blog, Hillcrest High School received an academically unacceptable rating from the Texas Education Agency for the first time, because the school did not meet the state’s 75 percent completion rate standard for African Americans and the economically disadvantaged, a component that the TEA added this year.

Hillcrest missed the mark by about six students who either dropped out, had not yet received a GED or transferred to another school without providing any accountability information. Hillcrest also missed the Adequate Yearly Progress for 2010.

Principal Ronald Jones and DISD representatives gave parents and teachers a clearer view of the situation during a meeting in the nearly empty auditorium last night, outlining new initiatives to correct the “unacceptable” rating and prevent it in the future.

Academically, Hillcrest students performed above the standards for the most part. There was a dip in math success across the board in 2009 with African Americans performing the lowest at 48.2 percent out of the 60 percent standard. The students recovered and met all of TEA’s academic standards by 2010. But even if everyone performed at 100 percent, the poor completion rate would still mark Hillcrest “unacceptable.”

“We still have to wear the Scarlett Letter regardless,” Jones said.

He says the reason for the low completion rate stems from the change in data systems used to track the students. Administration has now merged all records to a central location.

But Cynthia Goodsell, executive director of DISD’s West Secondary Learning Community, said it’s almost impossible to know where every enrolled student goes once they leave campus for good. Their contact information changes, or the school they move to doesn’t call to transfer records.

“It’s an indication that goes way beyond a high school’s ability to track,” she said.

Erica Sartain, one of the few Hillcrest parents who showed up to last night’s meeting, moved her children from private school for financial reasons even though some of her friends thought she was crazy.

“I’m disappointed because I know so much of what goes on here,” she said.

To prevent the same rating next year, Hillcrest has already begun forming instructional interventions for potential dropouts or five-year students in addition to reviewing attendance committee procedures. The district also plans to develop a new, comprehensive Cohort Tracking System to combat inconsistencies with data.

This weekend, the entire district will mobilize for Operation Comeback, and Hillcrest has to find every single student that put the school below the 75 percent standard. The final “snapshot” for 2011 goes to the TEA on Oct. 29.

“Our students have not skipped a beat,” Jones said. “We can take a message from the kids here.”

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