Texas: Worst-case Projection Puts 1,200 Schools under Par
The federal demand that student scores go up every year will put all students in the "needs improvement" category sooner rather than later. Schools can't beat the NCLB numbers any more than gamblers can beat the Vegas odds.
The number of Texas schools failing to meet state accountability standards could increase dramatically in 2006 under tougher passing requirements put in place Monday by Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley.
The new standards aren't quite as tough as those recently recommended by an advisory panel made up of business leaders, superintendents and legislative liaisons, but still make it more difficult for schools to earn an "acceptable" state rating.
In 2004, only 92 of Texas' 6,732 rated schools came up short of the acceptable state standard. In the Houston Independent School District, 14 of 307 rated schools were rated academically unacceptable in 2004.
"If schools perform in 2006 the way they did in 2004, we'd have about 1,200 academically unacceptable campuses" statewide, said Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency. "These are definitely worst-case scenario projections."
At that rate, the number of failing Houston campuses would increase to 55 in 2006. But HISD spokesman Terry Abbott said the district expects to meet the new standards.
"The Texas accountability system has always prided itself on increasing the standards almost every year and HISD has prided itself for nearly two decades on always rising to meet the standards," Abbott said. "We'll continue to do that."
Schools historically exceed expectations when standards rise, Ratcliffe said.
To achieve an acceptable rating under standards in effect for 2004, 50 percent of students had to pass reading/English language arts, social studies and writing, 35 percent had to pass math and a quarter had to pass the science portion of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. Those same standards will be used in 2005, although students will have to correctly answer more questions to earn a passing grade.
But in 2006, the minimum number of passing students will increase 10 percentage points for reading/English language arts, social studies, writing, and science. The minimum passing number for math will increase by five percentage points. The minimum passing rates will go up five more percentage points in math every year until topping out at 60 percent in 2010. By then, the minimum percentage of passing students will be 70 for reading/English language arts, social studies and writing and 50 for science.
The tougher requirements come closer to meeting the federal standards established under No Child Left Behind. Under the federal system, schools with fewer than 53 percent of students passing reading/English language arts and fewer than 42 percent passing the math exam will earn failing grades in 2006. The federal guidelines also go up over the next four years, closely following the new TEA standards.
Finding 'middle ground'
Neeley's advisory panel had suggested a 10-percentage-point increase for each subject in 2006.
Neeley's Educator Focus Group, which included teachers and curriculum coordinators, wanted Neeley to take a less aggressive approach.
"She moved to the middle ground between the two committees," Ratcliffe said.
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES