By Glorianna Nichols

As the AISD school district drops to C rating, Abilene High received an overall B rating from Texas Education Agency (TEA) for 2022.

“We did really well, so I was very pleased,” principal Emme Siburt said. “There’s always room for improvement, but with the hard work of trying to close the COVID-19 gap, we did really well.”

TEA, the state agency that oversees public education to improve outcomes for students by providing guidance and support to school systems, released the results on Aug. 15. Districts and schools didn’t receive accountability ratings from TEA in 2019-2020 due to the impact of COVID-19. The district received an overall B rating for 2021 but dropped to a C for 2022. Abilene High, however, remained at an overall B rating, despite COVID-19 challenging the education system.

“We made progress with students,” Siburt said. “They may not have all reached passing level, but we made progress with them.”

Accountability ratings are based on performance on standardized tests, graduation rates and college, career, and military readiness. The ratings examine student achievement, school progress, and whether districts and campuses are closing achievement gaps among disadvantaged student groups. To determine accountability rates, schools are compared to other similar schools and in order to receive a distinction, a school has to be in the top 10 of all schools in their performance.

“That means in five of seven things, we were in the top 10 of the schools we were compared to, which is really outstanding,” Siburt said. “But that was overlooked by our school district’s low grade.”

The school received distinctions for English, Math, Academic Growth, Post-secondary Readiness and Closing the Gaps. Siburt attributes the school’s successes to the collaboration of staff members and students.

“It’s a whole team effort,” Siburt said. ” Our teachers do a great job of not just focusing on the test because the test is just one piece. Our attendance officers work to make sure kids are here and administrators work to try to help kids. All of these things factor into it.”

Algebra teacher Angela Walker believes that the reason why math received a distinction was because the Algebra team meets every day to improve the way they teach based on students’ needs.

“If they need more time on a certain topic, we adjust what we do to help them,” Walker said. “We also do additional tutorials so if there are students who are struggling, we have specialized tutorials for them. We’re just very intentional with how we teach other students and making sure that our students are as prepared as they can be.”

When staff members came back from summer break, the entire campus participated in a celebration during a faculty meeting for the school’s rating.

“This was a time for us to celebrate each other, things that we were proud of and things that we’ve accomplished,” Walker said. “We had the entire staff in a room together and we were all pretty much hyping each other up.”

While Walker’s love for math and students motivates her to teach, she appreciates her connections with other staff members.

“It just goes to show how supportive the staff is of each other and how supportive our administration is,” Walker said. “It’s just really fun to work with people who take the time to celebrate each other.”

Siburt believes that this celebration was important to have because the ratings are a “big deal.”

“I think sometimes people feel like if they praise a school for their ratings, it draws attention to other schools that might not have done so well,” Siburt said. “Because of that, I think sometimes we’re missing that celebration piece, but Abilene High’s ratings are definitely something to celebrate.”