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Nonprofit Group Honors San Antonio Area Schools For Serving Kids In Poverty

McQueeney Elementary Principal Yomeida Guerra, right, speaks to Children at Risk president Bob Sanborn at a news conference announcing the group's 2018 school rankings May 21, 2018.
Camille Phillips | Texas Public Radio
McQueeney Elementary Principal Yomeida Guerra, right, speaks to Children at Risk president Bob Sanborn at a news conference announcing the group's 2018 school rankings.

Texas advocacy and research group Children at Risk is shining a light on schools that help students growing up in poverty succeed academically.

The organization published its 2018 school rankings Monday, comparing schools that serve students from similar economic backgrounds.

The rankings give schools letter grades, just as the Texas Education Agency will begin doing next year. But Children at Risk’s criteria give more weight to the challenges that come with poverty.

“The methodology is such that when we look at schools, we want any parent — rich or poor — college educated or not, to be able to say if they get an A this is a fantastic school,” said Bob Sanborn, president of Children at Risk. “An A and a B school for any parent is something they’re going to be proud of.”

Children at Risk also creates a separate list of “gold ribbon” schools, which are schools where at least three out of four children come from low-income families.

Under federal guidelines, a family of four is considered low-income if it makes less than $45,000 a year.

“In a sense, these are outlier schools because, as researchers, one of the things that you understand is that when kids grow up in poverty they are less likely to be academically successful. But these gold ribbon schools, these outliers, sort of prove it wrong,” Sanborn said.

There are eight San Antonio area gold ribbon schools this year: Charlotte Middle School from the Charlotte Independent School District, McQueeney Elementary from Seguin ISD, four elementary schools from Southwest and two from Northside.

“This is a really, really nice ‘yes’ moment,” said Yomeida Guerra, principal of McQueeney Elementary.

She said high expectations, school wide celebrations for academic milestones and a focus on attendance help her students be successful. McQueeney also reaches out to parents to teach them how to support their kids’ learning.

“All parents are not in education and they don’t know it takes just 10 or 15 minutes of reading. So teaching them, teaching their children, doing whatever — we all roll up our sleeves, every single one of us,” Guerra said.

Some school officials, including Northside Superintendent Brian Woods, don’t put much stock in rankings. They say ratings and rankings aren’t always the best way to measure a school.

Children at Risk measures schools based on four criteria: achievement on standardized tests, how schools perform compared to schools with students from similar economic backgrounds, the number of students who improve on standardized tests year over year, and college readiness indicators such as graduation rates and SAT scores.  

About 3 percent of San Antonio’s high-poverty schools earned gold ribbon status. The Rio Grande Valley, which has the highest rate of student poverty, also had the highest rate of gold ribbon schools. About 31 percent of the region’s 426 high poverty schools earned an A or B.

Camille Phillips can be reached at camille@tpr.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille

Camille Phillips can be reached at camille@tpr.org, on Instagram at camille.m.phillips and on Twitter at @cmpcamille. TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.