FORT WORTH -- Twenty-two Fort Worth district schools are expected to be rated academically unacceptable when state accountability ratings come out this summer, a significant increase from the five schools that had the rating last year.
Schools statewide are bracing for lower ratings, as the controversial Texas Projection Measure will not be applied to this year's results. Last year the measure helped bump up ratings at 51 Fort Worth schools, 18 of which would have been unacceptable without it.
Had the measure been in place this year, the district would have had only three unacceptable schools, officials said. Schools also face increased standards in math and science as well as the inclusion of more special-education students in accountability standards.
State Education Commissioner Robert Scott pulled the TPM provision this year after much criticism, including from lawmakers who said it gave schools credit for gains expected to be made instead of test results.
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But Fort Worth Superintendent Melody Johnson said it's unfortunate that the TPM became a political football, as it was a good indicator of progress.
"It is very demoralizing for these schools" rated unacceptable, Johnson said. "But the bottom line is we make no excuses. We own our results, and we always have. And we have always looked at progress not based on the TPM but on the test results."
Eastern Hills High School is expected to be rated academically unacceptable for the fifth consecutive year, according to the results. That would have closed it, but state law changed two years ago, giving schools more time to improve. Eastern Hills is one of six Texas schools rated unacceptable for at least four years in a row.
Officials said the school is making gains but still has a long way to go to reach acceptable. The school has also been plagued with a high turnover in leadership in recent years; Cherie Washington is the fourth principal in six years.
Washington, in her first year at the school, has been praised for reaching out to the community and surrounding neighborhoods. She was principal at Meadowbrook Middle School, which feeds into the high school.
"Since she was at Meadowbrook, she knows all the students and all the families and that makes a huge impact," said Trustee Tobi Jackson, who represents that area. "She has single-handedly built a real team there. What you see now is students walking with pride."
Washington said she's saddened by the rating, which she said does not reflect marked gains. Passing rates for all students in math climbed from 45 to 52 percent, for example.
"Those aren't small gains by any means," Washington said. "The label that the state gives us does not define us."
Polytechnic High and Meadowbrook Middle schools are projected to be rated unacceptable for a second year in a row. That would require those schools to be reconstituted, which would include a campus intervention team and could lead to a change in staff or principals.
Chief of Schools Robert Ray said officials are still reviewing data to see what areas need to be addressed at those two campuses. Overall, the district expects to have an acceptable rating, the same as last year.
Six schools are projected to have the highest rating, exemplary, including the new Young Women's Leadership Academy.
The ratings are based largely on results from the state's Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.
Eva-Marie Ayala, 817-390-7700