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Poly High has most to gain, lose with upcoming ratings

Polytechnic High School may have the most to gain or lose when state ratings are released Friday.

The Fort Worth school officially will learn if it is rated academically unacceptable for the fourth year in a row. If so, Poly will face tougher sanctions that could include closure. "When a school receives a fourth year academically unacceptable rating, under the law, the commissioner has the option of closing or putting a campus under alternative management," said DeEtta Culbertson, a spokeswoman with the Texas Education Agency.

The TEA is scheduled to released the 2008 district and campus ratings at 1 p.m. at www.tea.state.tx.us.

Last year, all traditional school district campuses in Northeast Tarrant County and the Arlington area were rated academically acceptable or better.

As of Thursday, Commissioner Robert Scott had not said how he will handle schools rated academically unacceptable for a fourth or fifth year, Culbertson said.

Monthly campus reports and improvement plans are reviewed by the commissioner before a decision to close is made. Schools facing a fifth year of academically unacceptable status are also asked to have provisional plans in place. By the fifth year, Texas law dictates that the commissioner "shall order closure," Culbertson said.

Principal Gary Braudaway has looked at the rating information already though the district has not released it to the public.

"The bottom line isn't the bottom line on these ratings," he said. "What the ratings don't show is that scale scores are up, some students by 200 to 600 points. ... They don't show the students' growth we've had here."

So far, the state has closed two Texas schools because of poor state accountability measures. In June, Johnston High School in Austin and Sam Houston High School in Houston were ordered closed. Johnston was facing a fifth year as academically unacceptable while Houston was facing a sixth year as academically unacceptable.

Another school, G.L. Wiley Middle School in Waco, is facing a fifth year academically unacceptable rating. Scott ordered science help for students and granted the school a one-year waiver from placing the school in alternative management, according to the Waco school district Web site.

This year, more students must pass the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills for their schools to be rated "acceptable," the second tier on the state's four-tier rating scale.

Many challenges

The Fort Worth school district had the most schools in Tarrant County rated unacceptable last year at 15 campuses. District leaders have predicted that the number of academically unacceptable schools will go down this year. They are also predicting an increase in recognized schools.

Last year, four high schools other than Polytechnic were also rated unacceptable including Diamond Hill, Dunbar, Eastern Hills and South Hills.

Four middle schools — Dunbar, Leonard, Meadowbrook and Wedgwood — were the only middle schools to miss acceptable last year while five elementary campuses did not reach that rating. Those were I.M. Terrell, Morningside, Sunrise-McMillian, Western Hills (both primary and elementary) and Woodway.

Charter schools

Three area charter schools will learn if they will rate unacceptable for the third year. They are Jean Massieu Academy in Arlington and Richard Milburn and Theresa B. Lee in Fort Worth. If they fail to reach acceptable, they will have to replace staff.

Currently Jean Massieu, which caters to deaf students, and Richard Milburn both have a state monitor appointed because of low ratings. A state conservator was appointed to Theresa B. Lee in September because of testing irregularities on the 2005 TAKS.

Lee and Milburn market their campuses to students at risk of dropping out, particularly those who have fallen behind or struggled in traditional classes.

Tougher standards

Middle schools will have an extra hurdle to pass to reach acceptable Friday.

For the first time, eighth-grade science test scores will be used toward accountability ratings. Science has traditionally been one of the areas many schools in the state have struggled with on the TAKS.

Additionally, the minimum passing rate for the acceptable rating has increased by 5 points in science, math, social studies, writing and reading to 45, 50, 65, 65 and 70 percent, respectively.

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