W.T. White Sweeps Academic Distinctions

W.T. White Principal Elena Bates. (Photo: Jaquelin Torres)

W.T. White was the only comprehensive high school in Dallas ISD to earn academic distinctions in all seven categories evaluated by the Texas Education Agency (TEA).

Principal Elena Bates learned of the accomplishment as she was working with administrators in preparation for the upcoming semester.

“I sent a message to our director and said, ‘Tell me if this is true — pinch me,’” Bates said. “It was a great way to start the school year.”

The TEA released its annual ratings on Aug. 15. Schools across the state were judged on four accountability indices: student achievement, student progress, closing performance gaps, and postsecondary readiness. The three Preston Hollow-area DISD high schools met expectations in all categories: Hillcrest, W.T. White, and Thomas Jefferson.

The TEA also recognized schools for earning distinction in seven academic categories. Hillcrest High School received distinction in six of them, falling short in closing performance gaps. Thomas Jefferson High School did not receive any distinctions.

Bates credits the hard work of her teachers and staff for W.T. White’s success. According to her, they worked with instructional coaches within the feeder pattern to tier students, identify gaps in different objectives, and determine how they could make gains.

“When we look at setting goals for our classrooms and our students, it’s all about what the student achievement is going to be,” Bates said. “We wanted to be strategic about how we met the needs of those students who we knew were struggling.”

The distinctions weren’t the only cause for celebration. The school recently opened a new collegiate academy and completed a $21.7 million expansion project that added 30 classrooms. The latter is a partnership with Brookhaven College that will afford some students the opportunity to earn up to 60 college credit hours while working toward their high school diplomas.

“We have a lot of exciting things going on and it should feel good for all our teachers who worked really hard,” Bates said.

Bates herself was one of those teachers for 11 years, before being named principal last spring. She said she is grateful to have been chosen for the role and thrilled to be starting her first full year as principal on such a high note. She also vows not to let up.

“We are going to continue to do what we started: grouping students, using data purposefully, and making sure we have a plan for each student and a plan for our courses all year.”

TEA Academic Distinction Categories:

Academic achievement in:
• English language arts/reading
• Math
• Science
• Social Studies
• Top 25 percent in student progress
• Top 25 percent in closing performance gaps
• Postsecondary readiness

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