TEA Touts Tougher Standards
Ohanian Comment: The "more money" relationship between funding and student achievement that nobody looks at is increasing the minimum wage. If the families in which "disadvantaged" children reside had more disposable income, what effect would this have on those children's academic progress?
The Texas Education Agency on Friday proposed a new school-rating system that would multiply the number of ways campuses could fall into the dreaded "academically unacceptable" category.
The new system would toughen standards for the four existing ratings — exemplary, recognized, academically acceptable and academically unacceptable — now used to grade schools and school districts.
The ratings would be based on student scores on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS), which is harder and assesses students in more grade levels and subject areas than previous state exams.
TAKS replaced the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) last school year.
Also, dropout rates would be calculated using a new method approved by the 2003 Texas Legislature that counts more types of students as dropouts, including those who leave school to obtain a GED.
Test scores would be evaluated by the percentage of students who passed the TAKS. For example, the "exemplary" ranking would require a 90 percent pass rate.
The system would consider not only the pass rate of all test-takers as a whole, but also those of four separate student groups: African American, Hispanic, Anglo and economically disadvantaged.
The combination of more tests and the breakdown of scores among student groups means a district would be evaluated in 36 categories, versus 21 under the old system, said Richard Middleton, superintendent of the North East School District.
"You have a tremendous complexity now in terms of how a school district can be rated lower," he said. "The (ratings), I think, overall are going to be much, much lower."
San Antonio School District Superintendent Rubén Olivárez, who worked at the TEA for nine years and helped create the state's rating system, said the tougher requirements would force schools to improve their programs.
"I think we're going to see our students be more college-ready when they graduate from high school," he said.
Schools and districts that don't meet the standards still could improve their ratings by showing significant improvement from the previous school year, an option particularly embraced by schools that start off as lower-performing.
The first ratings under the new system would be released in October.
Educators have been anxiously awaiting the new procedures for grading schools. Ratings were frozen in 2002 so districts could get used to the new test and the TEA could build this new accountability system around it.
The system sets standards for 2004 through 2009, raising the bar as the years go by as required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
In the first year, however, a district or campus that falls into the "unacceptable" category for falling short on one to three measures would instead be rated "acceptable."
The TEA is accepting comments on the plan through March 26 and expects to unveil the final system in April.
The release could coincide with a special legislative session that Gov. Rick Perry has said he might call to revamp the way the state funds public schools.
"Whatever the standards are they set, school teachers are going to get students to that standard," said Brock Gregg, director of governmental relations for the Association of Texas Professional Educators. "But how quickly we get to the standards they set will be determined by the amount of money that the state gives to get there."
San Antionio Express-News
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