Texas may eliminate provision that raises school accountability ratings

Soon Texas schools may not be able to use a provision that lets them earn higher accountability ratings than they would on student performance alone.

State Education Commissioner Robert Scott sent school leaders a letter this week saying he is considering doing away with the Texas Projection Measure or changing it significantly for the 2011 accountability ratings.

Educators like the provision because it gives schools credit for how well students are expected to do in the future, while critics contend that it doesn't give a true assessment of how students are performing.

Scott's letter noted that students made improvements in every grade level across the state on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.

"These test results demonstrate the hard work of students and educators across the state," he wrote. "Unfortunately, this hard work is being overshadowed by criticism of the use of TPM for state accountability purposes."

In 2009, 329 districts and 2,543 campuses statewide received higher ratings because of the TPM. Locally, about 190 Tarrant County schools used the TPM or one of two other provisions to receive improved ratings.

Educators are expecting even higher ratings when the 2010 results are released July 30, though it is not clear how much the TPM will play a role.

Scott said he is considering options to make sure that student performance is acknowledged and that the system remains transparent. Those options could include eliminating the TPM, applying it only if districts elect to use it or changing how and when TPM could be used.

Texas Education Agency spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said Scott has not set a deadline for a decision.

Bill Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business, has long criticized the TPM and wants the provision done away with now. He said TEA should delay this year's ratings so they can be calculated without the provision.

He said any of Scott's suggestions for altering the use of the TPM for ratings will not be clear to the general public.

"The districts and campuses will tout their ratings and not mention [the TPM influence] that is terribly flawed," Hammond said. TEA "should take the time required to issue the ratings for the last year [2009-10] after they've extracted the impact of the TPM to give us an understanding of where the schools really are."

EVA-MARIE AYALA, 817-390-7700