A dozen Tarrant County school districts failed to meet federal accountability standards, including Fort Worth, which faces increased sanctions because of multiple years of missing the benchmark, according to data released by the state Thursday.
The other districts that failed to make adequate yearly progress for 2010-11 are Arlington, Azle, Birdville, Burleson, Crowley, Eagle Mountain-Saginaw, Everman, Kennedale, Lake Worth, Mansfield and White Settlement.
Across Tarrant County, 181 schools missed the federal benchmark, up from 30 the year before.
Aledo, Carroll and Hurst-Euless-Bedford were the only Tarrant County districts in which all schools met the accountability standards.
Statewide, 605 districts, or nearly half, fell short, as did 2,233 schools, or 26 percent.
The federal standards are based largely on passing and participation rates on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills and on attendance and graduation rates.
Educators say it was more difficult for schools to make adequate progress this year because a provision that critics said inflated passing rates on the TAKS was eliminated, more special-education students were tested, and passing standards were raised in math and reading.
Schools that receive Title I federal funding and fail to make adequate progress are subject to a number of sanctions and risk losing federal dollars if improvement is not seen.
The progress benchmarks are part of the federal No Child Left Behind law, which aims to have 100 percent of students proficient in math and reading by 2014.
In the Arlington district, 38 schools -- more than half -- did not make adequate progress, including all of its high schools. Only one school failed to meet federal standards the year before. The district missed as a whole because of low passing rates for African-American and special-education students in math and low passing rates for special-education and limited-English students in reading.
Officials said they were surprised that so many schools came up short.
"If you go by the standard, by 2014 -- two years from now -- 100 percent of the kids are expected to pass the test 100 percent of the time," school board President Peter Baron said. "That's pretty unrealistic.
"We're not saying we're not going to pay attention to it, because we certainly are."
Superintendent Jerry McCullough said he sees the missed marks as more of a problem with the system and not with Arlington schools.
"Last year we had one school, and this year we had 38," McCullough said. "So something's wrong there."
For the first time, the Mansfield district did not meet federal accountability standards. That was due to special-education students' TAKS scores in math and reading. Eleven schools fell short of standards, including the four traditional high schools -- Mansfield, Summit, Timberview and Legacy -- which did not have enough students pass the math tests.
"We're still trending up. We're just not where we want to be," spokesman Richie Escovedo said.
Fort Worth area
The Fort Worth district is facing Stage 2 sanctions because it has missed the mark three of the last four years. Of its 124 schools, 76 did not make adequate progress, including 10 high schools, 17 middle schools and 45 elementaries. The year before, 20 schools missed the mark.
The district failed to make adequate progress because of low passing rates for African-American, economically disadvantaged and special-education students on reading and math tests. In addition, not enough limited-English students passed in reading.
"It's a high standard and obviously every population needs to meet that, but our goal as a system is to get kids learning," said Michael Sorum, the district's chief academic officer. "We had some nice gains and some declines, but overall the picture was one of improvement in the district this year. We try not to let ratings define us."
The Stage 2 designation means that the district must inform parents about the status and why it did not make adequate progress, as well as implement various improvement plans, such as addressing teaching and learning needs, said DeEtta Culbertson, a Texas Education Agency spokeswoman.
Interim Superintendent Walter Dansby, who took office in June, recently said improvement efforts include appointing two directors of middle schools to focus on those campuses' individual learning needs. Some schools have new principals this year. The district is also partnering with Harvard and Vanderbilt universities to help assess what's working and what's not.
Seven district schools reached Stage 5 sanctions for missing federal standards for six years or more: Dunbar, Eastern Hills, Polytechnic and O.D. Wyatt high schools and Daggett, Handley and Meadowbrook middle schools.
The Everman district fell under Stage 1 sanctions because of low passing rates in reading and math for special-education students and low passing rates in math for African-American students.
"The system is set up to collapse under its own weight by 2014," Superintendent Jeri Pfeifer said.
Crowley failed to make adequate progress as a district, as did 12 of its 21 schools, including Crowley High.
"We strive for success for every student, but we realize not every child will meet these federally mandated standards in the required timeline," Superintendent Dan Powell said in a news release. Many principals were reassigned this year to improve test scores.
The Birdville school district fell under Stage 1 sanctions for the second consecutive year because it missed the mark two years in a row as 14 of 31 schools failed to make adequate progress, including all three high schools -- Birdville, Haltom and Richland.
The district missed the federal benchmark because of low passing rates for special-education students in reading and math and for limited-English students in reading. The year before, the district missed the standard because of low special-education math scores.
This school year, a new math consultant and a new math and science instructional coach will work with high school teachers to evaluate data from individual students, design lessons and refine the curriculum.
Adequate progress "is no indicator of how well we are educating our students," school board President Richard Davis said. "By looking at everybody else you can see the standards that they're using aren't good indicators."
Three Grapevine-Colleyville district schools missed progress standards: Grapevine High, Cross Timbers Middle and Bridges Accelerated Learning Center.
The district is implementing various efforts such as a college-prep program and accelerated-learning plans in middle and high schools to help struggling students get back on track, spokeswoman Megan Overman said.
Three elementary schools in the Keller district failed to make adequate progress. Basswood, Heritage and North Riverside did so because of low passing rates for economically disadvantaged students in math. North Riverside also had low reading passing rates for Hispanics.
Staff writers Jessamy Brown, Robert Cadwallader, Sandra Engelland, Shirley Jinkins and Amanda Rogers contributed to this report, which includes material from The Associated Press.
Eva-Marie Ayala, 817-390-7700