Three Fort Worth high schools expected to get recognized rating

FORT WORTH -- Three high schools in the Fort Worth district are projected to earn the second-highest state rating of recognized, but Eastern Hills High School is projected to be academically unacceptable for the fourth year in a row, according to preliminary data.

School officials said Eastern Hills' passing rates in math will likely keep it on the unacceptable list, putting it at further risk of state closure for poor academic performance.

Meanwhile, officials say they expect Carter-Riverside, Paschal and Trimble Tech high schools to receive the recognized rating, the first time for Fort Worth high schools to do so under the TAKS accountability system.

Additionally, six middle schools are expected to be rated as recognized: Rosemont, Rosemont 6th Grade Center, Riverside, Como Montessori, Applied Learning Center and Stripling. Stripling had been rated academically unacceptable last year.

The ratings are based largely on results on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. For high schools it also includes the completion rate: the number of students who graduate on time or continue in school for a fifth year.

The expected improvements mirror what other districts across the state are seeing. Arlington, for example, expects to be rated recognized as a district.

Statewide last year, 11 schools were academically unacceptable for the third year in a row, including Eastern Hills, Dunbar and South Hills high schools in Fort Worth. Dunbar and South Hills are projected to reach academically acceptable when the Texas Education Agency releases its official results this summer.

Michael Sorum, the district's chief academic officer, said all high schools districtwide made significant gains. South Hills and Carter-Riverside, for example, made double-digit gains in math and science.

Diamond Hill Elementary School is projected to have reached exemplary, the top level, for the second year in a row. However, that school's TAKS results are under investigation for irregularities, and two people are on administrative leave while the investigation continues.

The district expects two other schools to be academically unacceptable -- Morningside Elementary and Forest Oak Middle -- down from 12 that received that rating, the lowest, last year.

It would be the second year for such a rating at Forest Oak Middle, meaning that the school would be required to "reconstitute" -- a campus intervention team would determine whether the principal and teachers could remain after 2010-11.

A struggling school

Eastern Hills is making progress, but not enough to overcome the unacceptable label.

Sorum said the school improved its science passing rate by 14 points. The math passing rate for all students improved by 4 points to 45 percent, but was well below the 60 percent standard required to be rated as acceptable.

"They have made gains as a school across the board, but in math they just didn't come far enough," Sorum said.

Schools rated academically unacceptable for five straight years used to face forced closure by the state. However, recent changes to state law give the education commissioner more flexibility to take into account progress being made.

Eastern Hills Principal Dian Korman recently submitted her resignation, saying she will leave when her contract is up this summer. Korman, who had been principal there in the late 1990s, had come out of retirement in November 2008 to lead the school again.

Some in the community worry that losing Korman will set the school back even further. They credit her with the gains it has seen.

"Losing Dian Korman is really going to kill that school again," said Meredith Perry, who has had children attending the school for the last 15 years. Perry said Korman recruited many in the community, including her, to help provide extra tutoring to students.

District spokesman Clint Bond said Korman wanted to retire again. She could not be reached for comment.

Various efforts have been made to help Eastern Hills, officials said. In 2008, much of its staff was replaced under a new program aimed at getting the best teachers to schools that were struggling the most.

Trustee Tobi Jackson, who represents parts of east Fort Worth, said that she is thankful for Korman's work and that Eastern Hills is a top priority for the district.

"I can assure you, we're going to bring that school back," she said. "We have a laserlike focus on that school."

EVA-MARIE AYALA, 817-390-7700