A local elementary school received an F on its latest report card. Wakefield Elementary, a part of the Sherman Independent School District, was the lowest scoring school in Sherman and Denison with a 54 on the Texas Education Agency’s accountability ratings.

The ratings were released on Thursday for the 2018-2019 school year.

The latest release of accountability ratings feature an A through F rating for elementary schools, which were previously rated on a met standards or needs improvement scale. This new system mirrors a system that was put in place for rating districts in 2018.

“When looking at district and campus ratings, it is important to understand their limitations,” Sherman ISD Director of Communications Kimberly Simpson said.” Ratings do not tell a complete story about what students are actually learning. They also do not indicate the number of students passing or failing the STAAR (test).”

In the latest ratings, four other Sherman elementary schools were given a D rating, while Fred Douglass Elementary School received a C. The highest scoring school in the district was Washington Elementary with an 83.

Sherman High School scored the second highest rating in the district with an 80 with Piner Middle School and Dillingham Intermediate following with each scoring a 79.

In comparison, Denison ISD’s lowest score went to Mayes Elementary with a 60. The district also had three elementary Schools score within the C range with Terrell Elementary scoring an 80.

Henry Scott Middle School led the district in the accountability ratings with a score of 87, and Denison High School and B McDaniel Intermediate followed with an 84, each.

In a press release regarding the ratings, Sherman ISD officials highlighted some of the accomplishments of the district and of its students. The district boasted a graduation rate of 98 percent while 18 high school students completed professional certifications at Grayson College, among other accomplishments.

Among the concerns brought up by officials in Sherman and Denison was the rating’s reliance on the results of the STAAR test and how it can skew the results for elementary and middle schools. In the high school level, other scoring criteria are added to assess schools, including career and military readiness and graduation rates. However, for the lower levels, the test serves as the primary focus.

Another complaint by Denison ISD Superintendent Henry Scott is that both area schools are handicapped on a portion of the rating system because of the school system structure. The two largest cities in Grayson County are among nearly 200 other districts in the state where the elementary level extends to the fourth grade. In some areas of the state, elementary schools can extend through the fifth or even sixth grade.

Where this hinders districts like Sherman and Denison is in criteria related to student growth. With students first taking the STAAR test in the third grade, the only chance that yearly growth can be measured is in the fourth grade, on what Scott described as a challenging test.

The growth during the fifth grade year will be reflected on the intermediate school for districts like Sherman and Denison not in the elementary schools. Scott said this is important as students traditionally see a 10 to 15 point jump in test scored on the fifth grade level.

One place that Hicks said Sherman could improve was in increasing the scores of students each year as the grow and continue on into more complex topics.

“We are seeing our kids passing the test, but we would like them to continue increasing their score year after year,” he said.

With regard to Wakefield, Hicks said the district is working to see where it can align its lessons and curriculum closer to how it will be assessed on the STAAR test. Through these efforts, and assessments throughout the year, Hicks said educators can be better able to quickly determine where a student may need more assistance.

“Whether the score is a B or C our team continues to focus on mastering that content year after year,” he said.

Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at mhutchins@heralddemocrat.com.