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Advocacy Group Releases 'Pandemic Edition' Public School Rankings For San Antonio

File Photo | Camille Phillips
Texas Public Radio
Sixth graders at IDEA Carver answer questions during English class in May 2019. IDEA Carver earned distinctions for being Pandemic Proof and a top performer in the Racial Equity category in CHILDREN AT RISK's 2020 school rankings.

Young Women’s Leadership Academy in the San Antonio Independent School District is the 2020 best-ranked high school and middle school in the San Antonio region, according to rankings released Monday by Texas advocacy group CHILDREN AT RISK.

Hoffmann Lane Elementary in the Comal Independent School District is the region’s top-ranked elementary school.

CHILDREN AT RISK adds weights to its data to help reduce bias against schools that start with students further behind academically. Still, its rankings are largely based on test scores, and the results still appear to favor schools that either have entrance criteria or fewer low-income students.

Young Women’s Leadership Academy is a magnet school with selective entrance criteria. Principal Regina Arzamendi said she has focused on giving her staff time for training and planning to help them with the added challenge of teaching remotely and in person.

“We’re keeping the focus on rigor and quality of instruction while keeping the use of technology simple,” Arzamendi said.

Less than 10% of Hoffmann Lane Elementary’s students are low income; 75% are white. Principal Amanda Schumann said the school year has been very different this year, even though Comal ISD has more students on campus than most districts based in Bexar County.

“We've got some remote learners at home, and even our kids on campus, it just looks a whole lot different with social distancing in place,” Schumann said. “We prioritized going back to as normal as possible. We feel like we've got a good thing going, and so we prioritized safety and relationships.”

CHILDREN AT RISK changed its ranking criteria this year because of the pandemic. Since Texas didn’t administer standardized tests in the spring of 2020, the nonprofit used STAAR scores from 2019, 2018 and 2017 instead. The rankings also have new categories for Pandemic Proof schools, PaceSetter schools and Racial Equity schools.

Pandemic Proof Schools

CHILDREN AT RISK considers schools that have earned an A or B in its rankings for the past three years and serve at least 75% low-income students “pandemic proof.”

“If they are consistently over the last three years serving those kids, we know that they're going to be pandemic proof,” said Bob Sanborn, president and CEO of CHILDREN AT RISK.

All four San Antonio schools honored with that distinction are in the IDEA charter network: IDEA South Flores, IDEA Carver, IDEA Carver College Preparatory and IDEA Monterrey Park College Preparatory.

IDEA South Flores Principal Myrna Winer credits their success to the close relationship they build with parents.

“I would say the biggest thing that we have is our partnership that we have with our families,” Winer said. “Our partnership goes as far as the 8, 9 o’clock phone calls that our teachers take to ensure that these scholars that are struggling are able to get the one-on-one help that they need.”

PaceSetter Schools

PaceSetter schools are traditional neighborhood public schools that serve at least 75% low-income students. They are not yet considered high performing, but earned top scores for how much they’ve improved over the prior year’s scores.

Four SAISD elementary schools earned PaceSetter rankings: Washington Elementary, Agnes Cotton Academy, Mission Academy, and George E. Kelly Elementary. Barrera Veterans Elementary in Somerset ISD and Zamora Middle School in South San Antonio ISD also earned PaceSetter rankings.

Racial Equity Schools

Schools are considered top performers in the racial equity category if a high percentage of their students of color performs well academically. The category also measures the percentage of low income students that perform well.

Olmos Elementary in North East ISD and Morrill Elementary in Harlandale ISD are San Antonio’s top performers at the elementary level. IDEA Carver College Preparatory, IDEA Monterrey Park College Preparatory and IDEA Eastside College Preparatory are the top-ranked middle schools. SAISD’s Fox Tech and Northside’s Holmes High School are the top-ranked high schools.

All seven schools are at least 75% low income and at least 85% students of color.

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