Crowley schools plan to appeal 'unacceptable' rating

Crowley school district officials blame computer glitches for the academically unacceptable rating that they expect the district and two of its middle schools to receive when preliminary accountability ratings are released Friday by the Texas Education Agency.

Officials began notifying parents and staff of the expected bad news Tuesday via recorded phone messages and a posting on the district website.

The district already knows what caused the ratings plunge, Superintendent Dan Powell said. "It's a glitch in software, and it's not unusual to have glitches in software," he said Wednesday.

The suspected glitch is responsible for the district's expected low rating, as well as that of Summer Creek Middle School, which Powell said would have otherwise been rated as recognized. The system, created by the Philadelphia company SunGard, incorrectly listed a number of students as dropouts.

Crowley Middle School's unacceptable rating is due to staff data collection errors, Powell said.

"We have about 116 total instances where we knew where the students were enrolled, but they still showed up as dropouts," Powell said.

Last fall, the district began the process of accounting for the difference between the number of students enrolled in 2009-10 and those enrolled in 2008-09. The district accounts for former students by making personal contact or by hearing from other schools that are requesting the records of students who have moved out of the district or the state or enrolled in private schools. Still-missing students are counted as dropouts.

Though Crowley officials found out about the defects and resubmitted their figures this spring with a letter from the vendor, the original set of figures stands, for now.

"The state's procedure is that whatever you submit on time becomes the preliminary record," Powell said.

The district's technology department has been reorganized after the errors, Powell said. A new director of technology and a new network administrator were appointed, and other staffers were reassigned.

The district is also looking at new software providers.

The academically unacceptable rating is the lowest of four given by the TEA and is based on TAKS scores, the number of dropouts, completions and performance data of subgroups. Last year, Crowley was judged academically acceptable.

The district will immediately appeal any unacceptable ratings and resubmit the correct documentation, Powell said. Final accountability ratings for 2009-10 are released in October after appeals have been considered.

"What we have clearly is a data problem and not a dropout problem," Powell said. "We feel confident that the appeal will be judged fairly."

Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657