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Almost half of Texas schools fail to meet federal standards

08/08/2012 11:49 PM

08/09/2012 12:46 PM

This article has been modified from how it originally was published in the Star-Telegram and on to correct the percentage of Texas schools failing to meet the standard.

The Texas Education Agency reported that 48 percent of campuses failed to meet federal accountability standards for 2012.

Arlington, Birdville, Crowley, Eagle Mountain-Saginaw, Everman, Fort Worth, Grapevine-Colleyville, Hurst-Euless-Bedford, Keller, Kennedale, Mansfield and Northwest are among the Tarrant County-area districts that failed to meet the Adequate Yearly Progress standards in the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Aledo, Carroll and Cleburne were the only area school districts to meet the requirements.

State officials said 3,773 schools and 339 districts across Texas met the requirements. TEA released the preliminary results online Wednesday afternoon.

AYP is designed to measure how well districts, campuses and charter schools are preparing students to be proficient in math and reading. The passing rate needed to meet the standard increases each year.

Almost immediately after the results were released, state and local school officials criticized them, saying the standards are rising too fast, making it hard for districts that have made significant advances to pass federal muster.

"They could have made huge strides, but the standards are rising at such a fast rate they can't catch up," said Debbie Ratcliffe, a TEA spokeswoman. "It doesn't mean they're standing still. They may be making strong gains, just not giant leaps forward."

But an influential business group that has been advocating tougher standards said the findings show the importance of a strong accountability system.

"These results will force schools to take a look at where their weaknesses are and come up with plans to address those weaknesses," said Bill Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business. "The whole idea of improving education is to ensure that our kids are ready to make it in the real world and that they have the skills needed to get a good job."

Schools that receive Title I federal funding -- which pays for programs for students from low-income families -- but fail to make adequate progress for two years or more in the same subject face a number of sanctions and risk losing federal dollars if improvement is not made. The sanctions range from Stage 1, for missing the standard for two years, to Stage 5, for missing it for six or more years.

Changing standards

The 2012 AYP evaluations are based on standard test results on the new State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, for students who were in third through eighth grade last year and on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills for 10th-graders.

This year, 87 percent of students must pass the reading test, up from 80 percent in 2011, and 83 percent must pass the math test, up from 75 percent. Attendance or graduation rates and the percentage of students who take the tests are also factors.

The goal of the AYP benchmarks is to have 100 percent of students proficient in math and reading by 2014.

Since the passing standards on those tests are not complete, the Texas Education Agency asked federal officials to hold off on AYP this year, but that request was denied. Because of the new STAAR system, the state is not issuing campus and district ratings this year.

Texas used a bridge study to convert raw scores on the STAAR to comparable scores on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, or TAKS, which is being phased out, Ratcliffe said.

Under that study, schools in the area failed because of their performance on the reading and math tests. In Fort Worth, for example, 82 percent of the students met the standard for reading and 76 percent hit the mark in math.

In a statement, school district Superintendent Walter Dansby noted that the district is showing "important gains" but called the federal standards a "moving target."

"Going forward the District has a new organizational structure recently put in place that it will leverage to focus on all areas of accountability to ensure success for all FWISD students in AYP and our state accountability results," Dansby said.

School districts have until Sept. 7 to appeal the AYP designation. A final status is to be released in December.

Crowley Superintendent Dan Powell knew that the results weren't good even before they were released. When the results were finally released, Crowley missed AYP as a district for reading and math performance and drew a Stage 1 requirement.

Both of the district's high schools, all three of its middle schools, all four of its intermediate campuses and eight of its 10 elementary schools missed the mark. Only Jackie Carden and Sidney H. Poynter elementary schools made the cut.

"With passing standards rising closer to 100 percent every year, every public school across the country is facing unrealistic standards," Powell said.

"We strive for success for every student, but we realize many children will not meet these federally mandated standards in the required timeline. Crowley ISD will continue to use every resource to help all children progress and achieve at the highest levels."

Arlington area

In Arlington, all six high schools, two alternative high school campuses, nine of 12 junior highs, and 31 of 50 elementary schools missed AYP, as did the district as a whole.

Arlington, Sam Houston, Bowie and Lamar high schools missed the AYP-standard graduation rate. All six high schools missed in math, while Sam Houston, Lamar, Bowie and Seguin missed in reading as well.

The district missed the mark because of reading and math performance and graduation rate.

The Mansfield school district fell short of the federal standards for the second consecutive year, showing difficulty with the reading test. Overall, 24 of the 40 campuses met the standards, including just one of the four traditional high schools, Summit.

"That's sort of the climate we're in," said district spokesman Richie Escovedo, emphasizing that the federal standards should be viewed as guidelines for improvement, not an indictment. "These are measures. They're benchmarks. They're places to see where we are and move forward. It tells us we still have work to do."

Fort Worth area

In Fort Worth, several campuses face sanctions after missing the mark for multiple years.

Several schools are already in Stage 5 after missing the federal standards for six years or more. There is no Stage 6. The schools will remain at Stage 5 until they meet the standards for two consecutive years.

Administrators at these campuses must meet with the Texas Education Agency and with the professional services provider, the education specialist already assigned to the school, Ratcliffe said.

"We'd get with that group of people and try to determine what kind of revisions could be made to the existing plan so that it could be made better," Ratcliffe said.

A district must meet AYP standards for two years to be removed from the sanctions list. So some campuses may have met them this year but must do so again.

Diamond Hill-Jarvis High School met AYP but remains at Stage 3, and North Side High School met AYP but stays at Stage 4.

Fort Worth school board President T.A. Sims said Wednesday that he plans to analyze the results before commenting.

The Castleberry school district missed AYP for reading performance, with Castleberry High missing in math. That resulted in a Stage 1 status for the campus.

Northeast Tarrant

The Hurst-Euless-Bedford school district missed the mark because of reading performance. Both of the district's high schools missed AYP because of math. Two elementary schools -- Stonegate and Midway Park -- missed the federal benchmark. All junior highs met the standards.

The Keller school district missed AYP for the first time, with 10 campuses falling short, including three of the four high schools. Of the 10 district schools that missed AYP, five were rated recognized and five were rated academically acceptable by the state in 2011.

The Grapevine-Colleyville district missed AYP because of reading and math. Both high schools missed on math performance, Grapevine Middle School was flagged for reading and math performance, and six of the 11 elementary schools also missed AYP.

"While these ratings are one gauge of progress, there are other measures, such as AP scores, SAT and PSAT, ACT, and college admissions that, when considered collectively, provide a clearer picture," Grapevine-Colleyville Superintendent Robin Ryan said. "Our teachers' innovative learning strategies and sound instructional practices are more accurate indicators of students' increasing academic performance."

Ryan said the district is increasing academic rigor in classrooms as part of its master plan to address rising state and federal requirements, as well as community expectations.

In Eagle Mountain-Saginaw schools, 14 campuses missed AYP, including Saginaw and Boswell high schools.

In Birdville, 18 campuses, including all three high schools, missed the mark.

Superintendent Darrell G. Brown said in a statement that the district is assessing, developing and revising curriculum to meet the difficult state and national standards.

"Changes are being made in the district's curriculum to better align what is taught in the classroom to what the students need to be successful academically," Brown said. "Today's ratings are not a true reflection of the quality of education and academic gains being made across Birdville ISD."

Staff writers Sarah Bahari, Robert Cadwallader, Sandra Engelland, Diane Smith and Lee Williams contributed to this report, which includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Jessamy Brown, 817-390-7326

Twitter: @jessamybrown

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