The Texas Education Agency issued its grades for the 2017-2018 school year and Early Independent School District finished atop the Brown County rankings after receiving an A rating.

Early scored 90 out of a possible 100 — followed by Zephyr (88), Brookesmith (85), Bangs (82), May (82), Blanket (78) and Brownwood (73) — and finished in the top 16 percent of all school districts, sitting among the top 153 districts out of 1,187 across the state. 

“Our biggest goal is to turn these students into productive members of society,” Early ISD Superintendent Wes Beck said. “The score goes to show we’re doing the right thing in preparing these kids. The staff we have at Early is the best I have been around in my life and the kids do a great job. The students are driven and motivated and the parents are involved and want their kids to do well. It all fits together. It’s one big puzzle.”

As part of the grading system, school districts are scored based on student achievement, school progress and closing gaps. According to the TEA website the criteria allows it to recognize high student achievement, the impact of highly effective educators while maintaining focus on the students most in need. Seventy percent of the overall grade was based on student achievement and school progress. Early was also one of five districts in its region to be recognized with an A rating.

“It’s nice to get the recognition that comes with this,” Beck said. “The recognition is great, but the pride we have is watching our kids go out and further their education or become a member of the community and give back to make it a better place to live.”

Zephyr finished second in the county and in the 43rd percentile across the state with its 88 rating. Similar to Beck, Zephyr ISD Superintendent Stanton Marwitz credited the score to his dedicated staff and students.

“We have a good staff, parent support and the school board is supportive of what we do,” Marwitz said. “Our principal is very supportive of all the teachers and kids. Sometimes, your greatest resources are the people you have. The people you have and the work you put in are probably two of the most important things you have. Our people and kids work hard and do a good job and I think that reflects in our score.”

Another small Brown County school to score in the 43rd percentile was Brookesmith, which is a strong statement considering just a few years ago a drop in enrollment, and the ensuing drop in funding, threatened its closure.

“We’re making headway and we’re continuing to move up,” Brookesmith ISD Superintendent Steven Mickelson said. “We work hard here and have a good team. Our team continues to improve and this next year we will continue that improvement. That’s what I would attribute it to, a quality team. Yes, we do not have the resources that is for sure, but we’re working on that as well.”

Although many area school districts rejoiced in their results, Brownwood ISD — the county’s largest school district — did not. After the Bulletin posted the results on its Facebook page, BISD Superintendent Joe Young offered an explanation behind the grades and stated the district has a lot of room to improve during the 2018-19 school year.

“Below grade seven, it’s solely the STAAR scores. As you read, keep in mind, most campuses count performance and growth,” Young posted. “All our elementary schools, however, stop at grade three so growth can’t be measured for those campuses. They only test in third and move to Coggin. We have looked at the student-level data behind this since the spring and made adjustments for the new year. We know our teachers and students are better than a ‘C’ label. Accountability is important and we will use the data to guide us. Being average is unacceptable.”