After decades of experimenting with testing, scoring and weighing student performance in the classroom, with the purpose of holding someone accountable for academic improvements, Texas school officials remain in a quandary over how to significantly raise achievement rates for thousands of children who fall short of national averages.A new statewide testing regime that kicked off last school year hasn't even been used for school ratings yet, but it has caused confusion and faced loud opposition, with first-year results causing some school administrators to warn that many of their students won't initially meet the more rigorous expectations.Though many local school officials have pleaded with lawmakers to revisit outdated funding plans, the Legislature last year instead cut education appropriations, which many educators say left districts facing higher academic demands with fewer resources.Competing forces claim to want what is best for Texas' 5 million schoolchildren -- and for taxpayers -- but they also have competing definitions of accountability, how to achieve it and how to measure it. Michael Williams, the newly appointed commissioner of education, proposed this week that any school rating system should take into account a district's ability to close achievement gaps between minority and white students. Those gaps are stubborn and persistent, though some districts have narrowed them.The current system rates schools and districts primarily on passing rates on state standardized tests, broken down by race, ethnicity and economic disadvantage. Graduation and attendance rates also are considered.Williams said any new accountability system should "give districts credits for what they're doing well." He said test scores, student progress and post-graduation preparedness all should be part of the mix.State Rep. Bill Callegari, R-Katy, has pre-filed HB 85, which would reduce what he called the "all too consuming" standardized testing and would pare the number of end-of-course exams that high school students must pass to graduate. Testimony in an Austin courtroom has highlighted some of the complexities of the whole enterprise of educating kids -- and evaluating how well it's being done -- in districts with vastly different demographics but the same constitutional mandate.State. District Judge John Dietz has been hearing testimony in lawsuits brought on behalf of more than 600 school districts (representing three-quarters of the states' students) arguing that the way Texas allocates public school funding violates the state Constitution. Superintendent Nabor Cortez of the 3,700-student La Feria school district in the Rio Grande Valley testified this week that 90 percent of his low-income students failed the English 1 exam, and practically none of his district's students are on pace to meet the standards of the new State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) testing program. He said the district could achieve those higher expectations only with proper funding.That prompted Dietz to ask whether "maybe we as a state have been satisfied with mediocrity" in our educational system, news stories reported.But Texans can't be satisfied with that.According to trial testimony, nearly half of the state's 150,000 ninth-graders aren't on track to graduate because they failed at least one of the STAAR tests the first year they were given.The state is adding 80,000 public school students each year, and increasing numbers are economically disadvantaged.The challenge for Texas Education Agency officials and the Legislature isn't just to develop a system of measuring how well schools are teaching and students are learning, but to put in place the adequate funding and support structure that enables students to achieve and the schools they attend to properly prepare them for the workplace and citizenship.