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Del Valle ISD tops area schools in updated rankings

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Three years ago, Texas legislators asked the state comptroller to come up with a way to compare the performance of school districts.

They wanted to measure how school spending relates to academic performance and to do this, they developed the Financial Allocation Study of Texas, or FAST for short.

"This is another tool that both lawmakers and the public can utilize in terms of looking at how districts are performing," R.J. DeSilva, Officer of the State Comptroller spokesperson, said. "We take the academic progress and the spending level and use that to come up with the rating system. So if a district's academic progress is high and their spending is low, they get a five star rating."

But the state only compares apples to apples—school districts that are "fiscal peers" with similar geography, size, economic status and student populations.

Only one central Texas district got the highest, five star rating—Dell Valle Independent School District.

But how did they do it?

"The school district itself becomes the focus, not just for academics and athletics and extracurriculars, but also for social services," Del Valle ISD Superintendent Dr. Kelly Crook said.

They achieved high performance with very low spending.

"We have social workers and contracts with outside agencies in the community that helps us meet the needs of those students," Dr. Crook said. "We also have the highest percentage of students in the region for whom English is not their first language, so in Del Valle, we really focus our resources on mitigating the effects of those challenges before they even cross the threshold.

Other area school districts did well. Liberty Hill, Dripping Springs and Round Rock ISDs each got 4 and a half stars.

And at the bottom of the list was Marble Falls ISD with low academic improvement and very high spending.

But in Del Valle, they say it's the whole community that makes schools successful.

"We know that until the basic needs of our families and students are met, that learning cannot take place,” Dr. Crook said. “So all of our resources, we try to focus at that campus level."

Austin ISD received two-and-a-half stars. It was marked down for high spending.

Click here to see how other area school districts scored in the FAST system.

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