Middle School Struggles To Meet State Standards, there’s more than meets the eye

By Savannah Cooper | Staff Writer

Beyond the pristinely manicured lawns of Baylor’s campus and the shadows of the Magnolia Silos lies the greater Waco community, which isn’t as financially fortunate and is reflected that within housing developments, health care facilities and within education, a community cornerstone.

Located exactly four minutes from Baylor’s campus lies Indian Spring Middle School on University Parks Drive. Indian Spring has been repeatedly struck by setbacks, from resigning principals to failing to meet statewide testing standards year after year,

The demographics of Indian Spring also play a role in its current conditions, because the vast majority of students are racial minorities. According to Start Class by Graphiq, the total school population is 579 where 389 of those students, or 67.2 percent, are Hispanic, 26.9 percent are black and 3.5 percent are white.

Then Waco Independent School District Superintendent Bonny Cain spoke to the Waco Tribune-Herald in 2014 about the status of Indian Spring and how the district is planning on helping.

“Whenever you have a school that’s really struggling and not successful change is in order,” Cain said. “We need people who know instruction, people who know kids and know how to teach. Teachers who are committed. They take a no-excuse approach to teaching kids.”

From the outside looking in, it’s simple to label Indian Spring as troubled and worth a potential shutdown so they can rebuild from the ground up, but those who work with these students each day see another side of them.

Angela Kusler is one of the two counselors at Indian Spring, and her daily schedule consists of working with the students on their social skills such as with academic and behavior needs.

“My schedule is different from day to day, depending on the needs of the students and staff,” Kusler said. “If new students come in, I prepare their schedule for them, show them around the school and take them to their class. If a student is having a problem at school or home, the counselors or social worker try to help the students.”

Kusler is in her twenty ninth year working in public education, with six spent as a teacher and 23 as a counselor. She has been at Indian Spring for four years and has seen students struggle academically. However, she tries to remain positive about their improvement.

“Indian Spring Middle School has struggled academically but we have continually shown positive improvements every year for the last three years,” Kusler said. “I believe our students do continue to struggle because of their low literacy level, lack of basic math computation skills and a need for a better parent-school relationship, all of which we work on on a daily basis. I feel that our students have a higher mobility rate than the greater Waco area and the state and this affects their academic skills [moving from house to house and school to school].”

For those interested in reaching out and helping students within the Waco community, Kusler knows Indian Spring would love that.

“We would absolutely love to have Baylor students and staff, along with Waco area citizens, come volunteer at Indian Spring MS,” Kusler said. “We already have mentors working with our reading tutoring groups and our service learning groups, but we would love to have more! There is a Volunteer’ tab on our website where people can get more information or contact Travis Cheatham or Shannon Carpenter at 254-757-6200 here at ISMS.”