The Freedom From Religion Foundation and White Oak ISD

Recently, I have been contacted by two concerned residents of White Oak ISD and legal counsel from the Freedom From Religion Foundation concerning the use of scripture in the “Thought for the Day” at the high school.

The residents were offended at the use of scripture, demanding that it be stopped and calling for disciplinary action against Mr. Noll. I am fully aware of the practice at the high school and will not pursue any action against our High School Principal or any other member of our faculty/staff concerning this issue.

The letter from the FFRF is not the first received by the district. They contacted us in the fall with concerns about the practices at our football games. I have responded in  accordance with their stated concerns and we have moved on.

Let me be clear, this is an attempt to draw us into a contest of words for the sole purpose of giving the FFRF a large amount of free press/recognition that they and their very few members (1,200 in Texas) do not deserve. This group and others like it, are wanting us to provide them with negative quotes to use in the promotion of their agenda. We can and will make the adjustments needed to ensure our students experience a morally sound, positive character based education. There are a multitude of options to provide our students, faculty and staff the opportunity to express their First Amendment Rights as provided for in the United States Constitution. Let me also be clear that we have not (in my opinion) violated anyone’s rights and/or subjected anyone to undue stress. Bible studies and scriptures are allowed in schools. The requirement is that the material be presented in a neutral manner. It is my position that we met that standard with the morning announcements.

My recommended response to the FFRF is, “I’m sorry you feel that way. I will be praying for you and your staff daily.”

Finally, as a Christian Brother, it will not promote the values we hold so dear to assail those that disagree with the Gospel. We will state our case. We will make sure our rights are just as protected as anyone else that lives in this great country. We will continue to provide for all the needs of our students and we will do so while traveling the High Road. Don’t get drawn into a game of words that has no “winner”.

Please do not waste your time and effort on these few detractors.

Michael E. Gilbert
Superintendent of Schools
White Oak ISD

What’s wrong with Texas youth today?

As a High School Geography Teacher, that was the question I started each class with the very first day of school. The immediate level of disgust, the eye rolling and the moans were almost always the same. Students were somewhat excited about the start of a new year and their teacher is about to pour a bucket of cold water all over them just to ruin their day. I never waited for an answer to that question, I answered it for them:

The problem with Texas Youth today is that you are Texas Youth today and it’s your turn to be judged unworthy.

Using this introduction, I would then proceed to tell students that there has never been a generation of young people that were ever deemed worthy of adult praise. We (adults) always see the necessity of pointing out all of our children’s faults and reminding them of all the great things we did when we were their age (as we remember it).
Now we have legislators and business leaders joining the band wagon of all the reasons the State of Texas is doomed to fail because of an uneducated, unmotivated and undisciplined work force that is being turned out of our Texas Public Schools. Just like in the 50’s, 60”s, 70’s and so on, the adult population always laments over the doomed status of the state/nation when these guys take over and run the place!
Let me put in my two cents on this conversation with the following points of interest:
• Today’s students are the most educated and assessed students in the history of this state. In fact, they are much smarter and have been held to a much higher standard of achievement that any of us ever dreamed of. That is true in number of courses required to graduate high school, the level of instruction required within those academic areas and in the advanced courses required to receive a diploma with distinctions.
• The students of today are work force ready. Anyone who continues to bemoan the lack of skills in our students does not give credit to the fact that our state wide gross domestic productivity has increased at a level much greater than that of the nation with our students in the workplace.
• Through great effort on the part of educators and some in the legislature, we can target the interest of our students and the skills required of our local job market to provided an education is rigorous, relevant and beneficial to the local economy as well as giving students the foundation they need to be even more college and career ready when they leave high school.
Our students are, as a whole, amazing! They are more generous with their time than any before. They are not ashamed to proclaim and live their faith and they are at the start of one of the greatest cultural shifts this country has ever seen. The cultural shift that technology, social media and global connectivity will bring to each of their lives is just now starting to give us a glimpse of things to come. As educators, we have to consider and create an education system that will equip them for that world. We have to provide a learning environment filled with this century practices and look to new ideas for the delivery of instruction that is focused on the learner, not the educator. It’s not that change is on the way, change is here and we need to embrace the needs of our students with an understanding that the Industrial Education Model is not best for today’s learner. What are some considerations as we create the new vision for Texas Public Schools?

• Those that would have you believe our schools are failing because of the results and low expectations of STAAR/EOC do not tell you that this assessment system is irrelevant in the evaluation of the total performance of a school district. STAAR/EOC is not recognized by any college of university as an indicator of success for post-secondary education. The assessments are aligned with a curriculum that is much greater in scope and volume than can ever be assessed on a single test in the 4-hour time limit.
• Educators have been “labeled” as anti-test supporters and nothing could be further from the truth. We believe assessments should be used as a diagnostic tool to enhance student’s strengths and reveal areas of concern with regard to the learning standards.
• We do not believe a test given in 4 hours on one day per subject matter can be used to determine the effectiveness of a teacher, a campus and/or an entire district.
• Campus and District Accountability Rating Systems based on the one time test process are no more than “Real Estate Ratings” used to promote one school district over another when there are no common factors in the comparison.
• The current accountability system is seen as a deterrent to the process of education to the vast majority of school districts. So much so that well over 800 Texas Public School Districts officially adopted a resolution stating their opposition.
• The current Industrial Model of instruction is not going to meet the need of today’s learners and it will not create an environment of success going forward.
• Poverty is the true enemy of education. A new vision for education must account for the needs of all students. We hear from certain distracters that “throwing money” at schools is not the answer. None of us in the profession are asking for a toss. We are articulating an expectation of equity that allows the children, schools and districts with high poverty rates to level the playing field and fight the problem at it’s source.

It is not enough to just point out what is not working. There has to be an alternative, a better plan to work towards in becoming an education system that focuses on this century learning styles and needs. There are several groups working on “what’s next” for Texas Public Schools. The “New Vision” is out there and there are school districts deeply committed to the work of making this century learning a reality. Search the web for the following and you will see communities and district leaders that are making a difference in this process. Look for Texas High Performing Schools Consortium and Creating a New Vision for Public Education on the web. White Oak ISD is a proud member of the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium and the New Visioning Cohort for Region 7. A Google search of “Mission: School Transformation” will provide you with a wealth of information about what we are working towards and what we are promoting as an alternative to the current instructional and assessment model.
To finish where I started, there is not a problem with Texas Youth today! Their future is bright and the possibilities/opportunities for them to experience success are on the rise. It is an exciting time to be in the business of educating students in the Texas Public School System. It will not be easy to change a culture that has been in place for more than a century, but it will happen. There is no doubt that the Texas Public School System is going to change. I hope that those of you reading this will look at the work of the Consortium and the Visioning Institute and join in the effort to transform our schools into models for best practices of learning for the 21st century.

To learn more about the New Vision for Public Schools and Mission see: School Transformation

A Mile Wide and One Inch Deep

Many of us in Texas Public Education have tried to spread the message that the required curriculum in Texas (TEKS) is long on what is covered and very shallow on what is allowed to be truly taught in depth. Mrs. Mary Ann Whitaker, Superintendent at Hudson ISD, published the following article that does a great job of explaining the problem we face. This example is for 5 subjects in 8th grade but the story rings true Pre-K through 12.

Mile Wide – Inch Deep

Texas has created mile wide/inch deep curriculum standards for all subjects, prekindergarten – grade 12. Teachers are mandated by law to teach the state curriculum standards, students are assessed annually on mastery of these standards using the STAAR testing system. There are 3 types of standards per subject:
• Readiness Standards– Essential for success in the current grade or course
• Process Standards– Represent strategies and structures to access learning and provides a way for students to demonstrate understanding/knowledge
Mile-wide standards for students entering 8th grade:
• Social Studies: 36 readiness, 56 supporting, 8 process standards
• Science: 15 readiness, 35 supporting 13 process standards
• Math: 13 readiness, 27 supporting, 7 process standards
• Reading: 13 readiness, 4 supporting, 3 process standards (2 genres)
• Writing: 8 readiness, 10 supporting, 2 process, (6 genres)
• Total standards for 5 subjects: 258 (85 readiness, 132 supporting, 33 process, 8 genres)
These numbers may not seem too overwhelming at first glance; however, the following is an example of one 8th grade readiness standard, with 7 levels of specificity:
8.15.D – Analyze how the U.S. Constitution reflects:
• Principles of limited government
• Republicanism
• Checks and balances
• Federalism
• Separation of powers
• Popular sovereignty
• Individual rights.
The 8 process skills are applied to each of those levels of specificity:
• Primary and secondary sources
• Sequencing, categorizing identifying cause and effect
• Graphs, charts, timelines, maps
• Point of view from historical context
• Point of view on social studies issues or events
• Use appropriate mathematical skills
• Geographic distributions/patterns
• Social studies terminology
From this 1 readiness standard, 56 different questions could be asked on the STAAR Exam. To cover a “mile” of readiness standards, one can easily see the limited time available to offer in-depth teaching/learning opportunities for our students. There are 35 additional social studies readiness standards and 56 supporting standards that must be presented within the 145 days prior to the STAAR administration. Classroom reality means the teacher must cover a comparable standard every 1.45 days!
This is not unique to 8th grade. A student entering first grade, age 6, is expected to master 211 standards in 5 subjects:
• Social Studies: 14 readiness, 27 supporting, 10 process standards
• Science: 7 readiness, 13 supporting, 13 process standards
• Math: 5 readiness, 15 supporting, 7 process standards
• Reading: 12 readiness, 16 supporting, (6 genres), 40 process standards
• Writing: 8 readiness, 9 supporting, (4 genres), 5 process standards
Due to the number of standards for each of the tested subjects, Pearson’s Testing, under the direction of the Texas Education Agency, will select approximately 30% of the standards to be tested each year. Teachers begin each school year attempting to address 100% of these mile-wide standards, praying they have focused attention on the standards that will be targeted on the “state exams”! Exams that will determine the success or failure of students, teachers, campuses, districts! It is time we bring reason back to a system that is no longer reasonable or attainable.

Thank you Mary Ann for taking the time to put this in a perspective that shows the need for change!

Whose definition of change are we using?

Thursday, August 28th, Judge John Dietz upheld the ruling finding the current funding system, developed by the Texas State Legislature and used to determine the funding per student in Texas, to be unconstitutional. This ruling comes at the end of a long legal process that involved over 600 school districts bringing a lawsuit against the state. The purpose was to force the members of the Texas State Legislature to do by court ruling, what they should have done by sense of duty to the students of this state: Fund the education of the Texas Public Schools in an equitable and adequate manner.
The court battle is not over. The willingness of the legislature to take up this issue without court order remains to be seen. But the level of resistance to the idea of overhauling the funding system for public schools, quite frankly, defies all logic! Look at the statements made by elected officials and lobbyists and try to determine what the real bottom line is in this process.
From Friday’s Longview News Journal:
What people are saying?
“Today’s decision is the sole decision of one judge in Travis County. The final say will come from the Supreme Court.” — Senator Dan Patrick
In other words, there is no interest in doing anything until forced by the highest court in the state. Having any initiative to solve this problem because it is a problem is not a consideration? The problem is real. The responsibility belongs to the Legislature; why wait to be sued to do what you are tasked by the constitution and the voters to do? Act now and do so in such a way that the students are the beneficiaries, not the special interests groups.
“Our obligation is to improve education for our children rather than just doubling down on an outdated education system constructed decades ago.” — Attorney General Greg Abbott
What outdated system is he referring to? The one crafted by HB 5 that totally redefines the process by which a high school student pursues a diploma? Maybe it is the implementation of best practices in classroom instruction like Project Based Learning/Inquiry Driven Instruction? Maybe he is talking about the focus schools have on a Response to Intervention process that is designed to provide opportunities for every student to be successful and drills down to meet the needs of each learner at his/her appropriate skill level? Is it the use of Professional Learning Communities so that teachers do not have to work in isolation and students benefit from the best practices of the community? Make no mistake, these things are happening in White Oak ISD and in thousands of schools across the state! What is outdated is the argument of the “Failing Schools” crowd that has a true purpose of redirecting public school funds to for profit vendors.
“Simply throwing more money at our education system doesn’t make it better without finding a way to deliver education in an efficient and effective manner.” — Bill Hammond, CEO of the Texas Association of Business
The only problem Mr. Hammond has with throwing money is the direction of the toss! As the CEO of the Texas Association of Business, it is his job to point money to his constituents. The existence of our Independent Public Schools and the large budget in place to support them is the target of his argument. He interest in efficiency or effectiveness is not evidenced by his continued support for Pearson Education and the High Stakes Testing machine (money, time, effort allotted to a one day/one size fits all test) that is in place across the state.
These gentlemen and others who stand in opposition to new, equitable funding statewide are not looking for “a change” in the Texas Public School System and the manner in which it is funded; they are looking for “their change” in the process. The efforts of school districts across the state have been hampered over and over again by legislators and lobbyists that would not get enough of the credit or profit from the changes schools have developed.
There is a bright side! On the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) Website, there is a link to Mission: School Transformation. (http://www.transformtexas.org/) This site references the Visioning Document for positive change in schools and gives you an idea of the large number of schools and districts that are involved the work of transforming instruction in our classrooms. This site celebrates the work of thousands of teachers and highlights the work being done to affect change. If you are interested in seeing what real change could look like, visit TASA’s website. New Visioning groups are in place in every service center region and work closely with their local representatives to find real solutions that benefit our students. Leaders like, Representative Jimmie Don Aycock and State Board of Education Member Thomas Ratliff are working with educators to better the system. Locally, Senator Kevin Eltife and Representative David Simpson stepped up to support the Texas High Performance School Consortium in our efforts to find a new, and better way to “do school”.
Across the state of Texas, schools have changed and for the better. We are not perfect but we are working to do the best we can with the resources made available to us. It is a shame that some would prefer to demonize those of us in the arena for wanting more in order to do more. The Texas Public Schools are not failing. Visionary leaders are working all over the state to ensure that your children, our future leaders, are getting the best “this century” education possible. Encourage your state representatives to take up the cause and develop the funding system now, without a court order, because it is the right thing to do for our students that are in school today and for those still to come. There are Senators and House Members that are ready to do the work and ready to make a difference. Hearing from their constituents (you) will matter.

Failing Schools?

The following post is an opinion letter published in the Brattleboro, Vt Reformer. Great rebuttal to the “failing schools” crowd. I am always interested in the comments made by past generations concerning the short-comings of the students of the day.

Our Opinion: Groundhog Day all over again?
Posted: 08/23/2014 03:00:00 AM EDT0 Comments

It’s hard not to conclude that the skies over our public schools are falling around our children’s heads when we read headlines such as “U.S. lags many nations in math,” “U.S. students behind the curve,” “Math + test = trouble for U.S. economy,” “Crisis in education,” and “U.S. high school seniors rank near bottom.”
Or how about this, from the New York Times: “… a large majority of (college) students showed that they had virtually no knowledge of elementary aspects of American history (and) could not identify such names as Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, or Theodore Roosevelt … Some students believed that George Washington was president during the War of 1812 … ”
Sound familiar? As if you just read them yesterday? Now, let’s go back to our opening paragraph. The first three headlines come from newspapers published on Dec. 7, 1941; the fourth headline comes from a 1958 edition of Life magazine; and the fifth comes from the Washington Post in 1998. And that quote from the New York Times? 1943?
As Gerald W. Bracey noted, the “our-schools-are-failing” narrative is America’s version of the Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day.”
“Americans keep waking up to headlines declaring that, apparently for the first time ever, the public school sky is falling,” wrote Bracey.
As former No Child Left Behind supporter Diane Ravitch has noted “Reformers in every era have used the schools as punching bags.”
And this debate over whether our schools really have been failing has been going on since at least the 1820s, noted Peter Schrag.
“The debate is driven … by our favorite myths: That there was once a golden age, an era when schools maintained rigorous academic standards, when all children learned, when few dropped out and most graduated on time; that sometime in the past generation or so … the system began to fall apart … leaving America helpless against superior foreign education; and that the large amounts of new money that have gone to the schools in the past generation have largely been wasted,” wrote Schrag … in 1997.
In “Reign of Error,” Ravitch wrote that in the 1940s, reformers complained that the schools were obsolete. In the 1950s, reformers said that the schools had forgotten the basics and needed to raise academic standards. In the 1960s, they said that the schools were too academic and that students were stifled by routine and dreary assignments. In the 1970s came the rise of minimum competency testing, and in 1983, the National Commission on Excellence in Education stated we were “a nation at risk” because of the low standards and low expectations in our schools.
“Our national slippage was caused, said the commission, by ‘a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.'”
Ravitch, who is a fierce critic of the corporatization of our public school system, also known as the charter school movement, noted that critics of America’s schools fail to acknowledge that not only have our schools changed since the founding of this great nation, but so have the demographics of the families our schools are called upon to educate.
Despite the rhetoric coming from the right-wing and libertarian think tanks, our schools are not in decline.
“(T)hose who now sharply criticize the public schools speak fondly of an era when most schools were racially segregated; when public schools were not required to accept children with physical, mental, and emotional handicaps; when there were relatively few students who did not speak or read English; and when few graduated from high school and went to college.”
Despite America’s success at integrating and educating people from every nation and culture on the planet, the proponents of school privatization trot out the same old scare stories such as the ones at the beginning of this editorial.
Why? As then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich and University of California regent Ward Connerly noted in an editorial in 1997, “despite spending trillions of dollars on education over the past 30 years, American children are further behind today.”
Many people hiding under the cloak of “reform” stopped listening after “trillions of dollars.”
“If the American public understood that reformers want to privatize their public schools and divert their taxes to pay profits to investors, it would be hard to sell the corporate idea of reform,” wrote Ravitch. “If parents understood that the reformers want to close down their community schools and require them to go shopping for schools, some far from home, that may or may not accept their children, it would be hard to sell the corporate idea of reform.”
But, as Ravitch notes, there are problem schools with low test scores, low graduation rates and high levels of violence. What do all of those schools have in common? Poverty and high concentrations of racial minorities.
“Children who are poor receive less medical attention and less nutrition and experience more stress, disruption, and crises in their lives,” wrote Ravitch. “These factors have an ongoing and profound effect on academic performance. Unfortunately, many people are unwilling to address the root causes of poor school outcomes, because doing so is either too politically difficult or too costly.”
Too many of us have bought into the hyperbole that the private market can do a better job at educating our students and that our war on poverty has been a failure. We’ve been desensitized to the plight of the most vulnerable members of our community and we’ve been pitted against each other to the point we fail to see the real villains in our midst. It’s not the poor and the hungry, it’s the people who would pull the wool over our eyes while enriching themselves, leaving the rest of us holding the bag.

Safety at White Oak ISD

Safety is our top priority.

At the Town Hall Meeting on January 6, 2013, I spoke to a group of concerned White Oak Stakeholders about the safety and security of our students. The conversations had two main parts.
First, we discussed the procedures and culture in place at White Oak ISD that help to ensure our students can receive a high quality education in a safe learning environment. I want to assure you that we continue to train, practice and review policies and procedures that deal with specific threats to or students be they natural or man made in origin. Along with our fire drills, shelter-in-place drills and foul weather contingencies, we also conducted the district’s first mock evacuation drill designed to move every member of the student body, faculty and staff out of the district. School district personnel and local first responders were involved in this process. The drill was successful and very informative to everyone involved.
Second, we had a discussion about areas of concern with regard to the facilities at all grade levels. Since the meeting in January 2013, WOISD has been involved in a wide spread upgrade with security in mind. Over eighty-three (83) security cameras have been installed in the district. These cameras are high resolution and all activity is stored on a DVR for an extended period of time. These cameras record activity in all the main traffic areas inside our campuses, entryways and a majority of the parking areas in the district. Monitors are in place at each campus office and the administration building. The district has installed fifty-two (52) new doors in the district. The majority of the new doors are “exit only” doors that do not have any hardware on the exterior. The doors cannot be opened from the outside. All entry-level doors are now equipped with programmable locks that allow the campus to restrict access to the building and monitor who is coming in during the instructional day. The Intermediate and Middle School have new entrances that direct traffic into the office before entering the instructional areas.
It is my belief, and that of the Board of Trustees, that these improvements have greatly increased the physical plant security at White Oak ISD. These improvements combined with an engaged community, a positive relationship with all first responders and a well trained/caring district workforce come together to create an atmosphere that is conducive to the educational success of the students at White Oak ISD.
As we prepare to begin the 2014/2015 school year, I hope this information is helpful to everyone sending their young people to school each day. The faculty, staff and administrative team at White Oak ISD is fully aware that no plan is perfect and can not guarantee the complete safety of your children while they are at school. What we can do is plan, prepare and provide an environment that is the safest place your children can be in White Oak, Texas at any given time.
It is a privilege to serve as Superintendent of Schools at White Oak ISD. I look forward to all that is in store for our students and our community in the coming year.

White Oak ISD’s Response to PEG Listing for White Oak High School

Last week the Texas Education Agency released the list of Public Education Grant (PEG) Schools/Districts. White Oak High School was included on that list as an “Academically Unacceptable” campus for 2013. This label activates a number of required actions by White Oak ISD to inform our stakeholders of the current rating and legal options that are available for consideration. That notification and list of actions will be released very soon.

How did White Oak High School merit this designation?

The short answer to this question is, we did not merit and/or receive this rating designation. The high school and the district received a rating of “Improvement Required” last fall and much was said and written to educate our stakeholders about that process.
White Oak High School is on the PEG list because TEA did not see the need to distinguish between the new Improvement Required rating and the old Academically Unacceptable ranking. There is no supporting evidence that any of our campuses are lacking in academic performance and/or professional educator expectations.
We were down graded, for lack of a better term, due to a high number of students that graduated in 2012 on the minimum plan (52%). One year after this class graduated, TEA adopted a new accountability standard that determined the Class of 2012 was not College & Career ready. It should be pointed out, once again, that the minimum plan was and is an approved graduation plan. Adopted by the State Board of Education and listed as an accepted option in Texas Education Code 74.61. This arbitrary decision was made despite the following:
• 74.1% of the Class of 2012 is enrolled in post-secondary education courses at this time
• Our seniors score above the state average on SAT and ACT college entrance exams
• Our students far surpassed the state average on all TEA mandated assessments at all grade levels, especially High School
• Some of our “minimum graduates” received full and partial scholarships to four year universities on the merit of their entrance exam scores, assessment scores and the successful experiences they had in high school
• A side note to the academic aptitude of the Class of 2012 is they brought home UIL State Championships in Over all Academics and Journalism
• The Class of 2012 brought home the overall UIL Champions Lone Star Cup for the first time in the history of White Oak ISD
• It is also worth pointing our that our Boys Basketball Team won the first of two State Titles in 2012
To Commissioner Williams and the TEA staff, this is what they have determined to be an academically unacceptable school. TEA feels that this level of performance requires WOISD to be placed in the school improvement model and spend over $40,000 in unbudgeted expense to hire an outside consultant and require our leadership team to attend extensive training sessions to improve our poor performance.
Commissioner Williams and TEA staff declined to consider any of this information in the appeal we sent last fall and the rating of Improvement Required remains in place for White Oak ISD. We have strategies in place to remove us from this list but we are required to stay in school improvement for a minimum of two years. Our leadership team, faculty and staff are fully prepared to deal with the implications of this rating. However, the idea that anyone would consider White Oak High School “Academically Unacceptable” is completely unacceptable to me, as Superintendent, to the Board of Trustees and to all stakeholders in White Oak! I do not want anyone to think any of us are willing to just accept this kind of arbitrary, blanket assessment.
The Faculty, Staff and Leadership Team of White Oak ISD want to assure this community that the safety and academic success of our students has been, is and always will be our highest priority. As educators, we are committed to meeting the individual needs of our students. I believe that I can speak on behalf of the entire team that provides for the safety and instruction of your students when I say; thank you for allowing us to share in the lives and successes of all the students that attend White Oak ISD.

We Are White Oak!

Michael Gilbert, Superintendent
White Oak ISD

The Blessings of White Oak ISD

As we head into the Christmas Season, it seems appropriate to “count our blessings” at White Oak ISD. Many would assume that means looking at the number of successes attributed to our students in the many areas of UIL competition. These events are truly a source of pride for all the stakeholders in the district. Our students have been very successful in the fall of 2013. We’ve watched our very young Volleyball team respond to new leadership and make a strong run in the playoffs. We’ve seen our Cross Country Teams run and qualify for the Regional Meet. The Regiment of Roughnecks, 160 strong, marched their way into the State Marching Band Finals and emerged as the Best 2A Military Band in the state of Texas. We watched as our Roughneck football team made a record run into the State Semi-Finals and became only the second team in school history to compete in a 15 game season!
These are events and accomplishments to be proud of, without a doubt. But, I will submit to you that the blessings of White Oak ISD run much deeper than events and accomplishments. Our blessings can be seen in the form of a supportive community for all things White Oak. Athletic events, academic contests, play productions and awards ceremonies are held all over the state. When those events include White oak ISD, you can expect a crowd. This community gives of their most valuable commodity, time. This is not the action of parents only, it is the whole community that shows up for a cold rainy football game, a state tournament in Austin or Garland and a marching band competition in San Antonio! The support that our students, faculty and staff experience in White Oak is not commonplace and certainly not something to take for granted. Roughneck Pride runs deep and far beyond the campus doors.
Our blessings can be seen in a strong, professional and caring faculty, staff and administration. From the bus drivers that are the first to greet many of our students to the support staff that maintains the physical plant and the instructional staff working with students on a daily basis, we are blessed to have the team that serves our students each day. This group is also in the stands, at the auditorium and standing by the field to support our students. We are there after school, on the weekends and in the summer to make sure there is a comprehensive plan in place that will give our students the best chance to experience success in the classroom and extra-curricular activities. Our staff sponsors clubs, organizes fundraisers and guides students through many of the moments that make up a positive memory of the time spent in school. Our administrative team is committed to providing each student with a safe learning environment that is conducive to the pursuit of academic excellence and developing skills that will be used to succeed after graduation. Another way to express all of the above is, we have adults that love and care about our students.
Finally, the biggest blessing in White Oak ISD is a group of young people that care, period. As a group, they care about their community, they care about their school and they most certainly care about one another. The success that is seen in White Oak ISD does not come from a set of strategies/formulas that you can publish and apply to any community. It is the result of a long-standing culture of caring about who we are and what we do, that sets White Oak ISD apart. That culture is handed down from class to class as students model who we are every year. Success at the High School does not start at the High School. It starts as soon as a student first enrolls in White Oak ISD. You can have the best community support, the finest instructional strategies, the best facilities and the most up-to-date equipment but if you do not have students willing to give their very best, you won’t have what we have in White Oak.
The billboard in front of the High School states, “WE ARE WHITE OAK” and I am here to say that is much more than a statement. White Oak ISD alumni Bobby Hawthorne said it best, “We are White Oak is a promise from the students, faculty and staff that are in school now, to those that came before them, that the Roughneck legacy remains strong in our schools.” The blessings of White Oak ISD are the people of this school system and the community that supports all that we do. I am so honored to be a part of the important and fulfilling work of educating our young people.
Christmas is a very special time of year and I want to close with this:

Merry Christmas!
May God extend his riches blessings on each of you this Holiday Season.

Michael E. Gilbert, Superintendent
White Oak ISD

WE ARE WHITE OAK!

White Oak ISD Accountability Rating 2013

Many of you in the district are aware that White Oak ISD received a Texas Education System Accountability Rating of “Improvement Required”. In the new system for 2013 there were only two possible ratings for a district and the individual campuses:
• Met Standard
• Improvement Required
It does not take long to determine that WOISD received the lower rating and begs the question, “What happened”? It is my intention to use this response to answer that question.
First, let me say that three of our four campuses Met Standard with flying colors and that, as a district, WOISD scored very high in three of four index areas measured. The District Scores were as follows:
• Index One – Student Achievement 89 points, 39 above the standard
• Index Two – Student Progress 32 points, 11 above the standard
• Index Three – Closing the Performance Gap 85 points, 30 above the standard
• Index Four – Post-secondary Readiness 72 points, 3 below the standard
In short, White Oak ISD scored very well in three of four measures and came up three points short in the fourth. Index Four is a High School and District indicator that measures High School Graduation Rate and the percentage of students graduating on the Recommended Plan or higher. The score below the standard in Index Four prompted our lower rating.
Why did we receive the low rating in Index Four? Post-secondary Readiness was determined on two measures – graduation rate and percent of students graduating on the Recommended or Distinguished Plan. In 2012, the year used for the rating, White Oak High School had a graduation rate of 95.7% and 56% of our senior class graduated Recognized or Distinguished. The 44% of our graduates on the Minimum Plan was too high by the State’s standard, and therefore, placed us below the Met Standard score.
The procedure for allowing a student to “opt-in” to the Minimum Graduation Plan requires a meeting with the student, parent/guardian and a school administrator. In this meeting, the student’s academic progress, long term goals and best placement options are discussed. If the student and parent/guardian believe that the minimum plan is the best pathway to graduation, all three entities are required to sign a document that permits the Minimum Plan to be put into effect.
To the issue of Post-secondary Readiness at White Oak ISD, our students’ success rate speaks for itself. Even in the ranks of students that opted for the Minimum Plan, fifty percent attended college, many at Kilgore. Most, if not all, made these choices based on economic factors not educational qualifying factors. We have students that have been accepted into four year Universities under the minimum plan, but that is the exception not the rule.

With all that being said, there are two points that I want to make very clear to all stakeholders in White Oak ISD.

• First, at no point in time has any member of the White Oak ISD Leadership Team or Faculty promoted and/or instructed any of our graduates to sign up for the Minimum Graduation Plan. The decisions to move this plan were made with all parties being fully aware of the ramifications of the change.
• Second, the numbers listed in the Four Indexes do not tell the complete story of who we are at White Oak ISD and/or all the measures of success that you as stakeholders should know and use to determine the effectiveness of your school district. For example, graduation data from the Class of 2012 is used to create this rating. This is the same class that won State Championships in Academics, Fine Arts and Athletics. These students did not specialize in one or two areas of “school” but chose to extend themselves to do all that they could and receive a well-rounded, life-shaping education. This is the same class that scored well above the state and national average on SAT and ACT exams. This is also the class that amassed almost 3 million dollars in scholarship offers at the time of graduation.

I want each and every person that reads this post to know that the Faculty, Staff and Administration at White Oak ISD have not failed you and/or your students. Our focus is on providing a quality education for a quality student and to prepare them for life in a 21st Century work environment. We will stay on top of this graduation plan issue and make sure that our students make educational choices based on needs/future plans and not convenience.
The next post you see from me will be to announce an addition to our website. We will post and continually update the events and accomplishments that are an indicator of what White Oak ISD is all about. As we move forward and continue to promote an open, transparent school district the use of this website will be of great value. The state’s accountability rating is what makes the paper but is the opinion and evaluation our parents and community members that matters most to all of us at White Oak ISD.
Thank you for taking the time to read this information. I hope it gives you good insight concerning our district and the work being done to provide the quality education your students deserve.