TR Elementary staff, students working to transform school

Three Rivers Elementary School Principal Cindy Miller

THREE RIVERS – Like a champion boxer who refuses to surrender despite a grueling challenge, the staff of Three Rivers Elementary, led by first-year Principal Cindy Miller, is working hard to make sure the school makes big improvements throughout campus.

Last year, the school was stunned by a D rating, which seemed like a real punch in the gut to Superintendent Les Dragon, who said he felt ill after seeing the school had received a 64 in its accountability rating from the Texas Education Agency.

Based in large part of state standardized test scores, the school faced a difficult transition last spring as Dragon moved from elementary principal to interim superintendent in February 2019 with the death of Dr. Mary Springs.

But rather than simply sitting back and nursing its wounds, the school is in the midst of a transformation involving tremendous efforts by staff and students alike.

“The school received a D, and that’s definitely not where we want to be,” Miller said. “We decided to own that. You own it so you can get better. If nothing changes, then nothing changes.”

The campus staff has taken the desire to improve to heart, and Miller said they have embraced the challenge with enthusiasm.

“So far, they’re really done a fabulous job,” she said.

The campus improvement plan focuses on four areas, Miller said:

• Working with special education students and different subgroups of the student population “to make sure every kid is placed in the right learning environment.”

• Targeting intervention based on test scores, “something we do every day.”

• Progress monitoring that tracks each individual student and keeping track of individual growth in the educational process.

• Extended hours until 5 p.m. to make sure students are prepared to meet the challenges they face and have the opportunity to succeed. “These are long days, so if a student has to stay for an extended day, they should have no homework that day.”

Improvements have already been made, but the work is still underway, Miller said.

“We set some very realistic and obtainable goals of where we want to be at the end of the year,” she said.

Among the progress noted so far:

• Third grade reading scores were at 21 percent at the beginning of the year, and had improved to 46 percent halfway through the year.

• Third grade math scores improved from 17 percent mastery to 65 percent.

• Fourth grade reading mastery increased from 38 percent at the start of the school year to 74 percent.

• Fourth grade math mastery went from 5 percent mastery to 56 percent.

• Writing scores at fourth grade improved from 28 percent mastery to 68 percent.

• Fifth grade reading scores went from 46 percent mastery to 77 percent.

• Fifth grade math scores improved from 50 percent to 69 percent.

• Fifth grade science scores improved from 15 mastery to 73 percent.

• Sixth grade reading scores went from 31 percent mastery to 47 percent.

• Sixth grade math mastery has improved from 16 percent to 53 percent.

“I can assure you that everyone on our campus is working very hard and we hope the efforts show up on (State Assessment of Academic Readiness) testing.”

Dragon said he is proud of the efforts that Miller and the elementary staff and students have made, and he is eager to see that D mark erased and replaced by a better rating.

“I know they’re working very hard, and there are signs of remarkable progress being made across each grade level,” Dragon said. “We are looking forward to getting the preliminary results of our test scores in June.

“I really hope all the hard work they are putting in is reflected in the school’s rating, because I know they’re earning it.”

Jeff Osborne is the editor of The Progress. He can be reached at 361-786-3022 or theprogress@mysoutex.com.