This article is the first in an occasional series that will highlight performance ratings of school districts within the Herald-Press coverage area.

East Texas schools are struggling to make the grade in a new statewide performance rating. Oakwood Independent School District, however, with only 203 students, is excelling in preparing students for college or vocational school.

In rating post-secondary readiness, the Texas Education Agency considers graduation rates, enrollment, and completion of dual-credit courses, career and technology graduates, and participation and scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and the American College Testing (ACT) college entrance exams.

Only 61 of the state’s 1,200 public and charter school districts — or less than 1 percent — received the distinction, based on comparisons with similar districts.

The Texas Eduction Association rolled out the new report card rating system last month to increase the accountability of school districts and inform parents and other stakeholders about how their schools are performing. Information is available on the website,

Oakwood schools also fared above average in the overall district rating, receiving a “B” for 86 out of 100 points. The rating is an average of three categories: student achievement, school progress, and closing the gaps – how well schools are raising the achievement levels of underperforming students.

Oakwood received a 76, or “C,” in student achievement, determined by performance on standardized tests, college, career, literary readiness, and graduation rate. Superintendent Donny Lee said the district is improving science and social studies instruction to bring its overall student achievement level up.

The district received a “B,” or 89 out of 100 points, for school progress, which measures how student performance has improved over time, in comparison to other districts.

The rating for closing the gaps, also a “B” rating (80 out of 100), indicates how well different populations of students are performing.

With only one year under his belt, Lee remains committed to improving the school district. Oakwood added 12 teachers this year.

Additionally, Sharon Young joined Oakwood as secondary principal, for the combined middle school and high school. Greg Branch is the district’s new elementary principal and baseball coach.

Oakwood Elementary received a National Blue Ribbon Award in 2017 from the U.S. Department of Education. Only 18 elementary schools in Texas, including all public, private, and charter schools, received the distinction.

Lee said some of the faculty were hired to improve student performance in science and social studies. The district is also expanding its career and technology education and adding courses in advertising, business management, and welding.

“Our kids have more options now,” Lee said.