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The Brief: July 30, 2010

State public school ratings will be issued this afternoon — with one Texas-sized asterisk.

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State public school ratings will be issued this afternoon — with one Texas-sized asterisk.

That's because for the second year, the Texas Education Agency has filtered its accountability ratings through the Texas Projection Measure, which critics say inflates scores by crediting students who fail the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills but are projected to pass in the future.

The agency has yielded to pressure this year from the controversy and will release rankings — to be announced at a press conference and posted here at 1 p.m. — calculated both with and without the projection measure. The results will also include how many of those who failed the TAKS test in 2009 then went on to pass it in 2010 as predicted — information that could quiet, or further incense, critics of the measure.

But whatever the results, the controversy, which has even recently seeped into the governor's race, is likely to linger. The Tribune's Brian Thevenot reported earlier this month that those projections may be wrong up to half the time. The measure, Thevenot wrote, "predicts future performance of failing students by multiplying test scores by a factor intended to mimic typical performance of all students in Texas, of all abilities — not the individual student’s own track record or that of similarly able students."

Education Commissioner Robert Scott has defended the measure, calling criticism overblown and politically driven, but has also said he'd be "happy to scrap it" if necessary.

It remains to be seen how the controversy with play with parents of public schoolchildren. As Thevenot wrote this week, "Most Texans, even those with school children, don't have time to monitor the intricacies of an ever-evolving accountability system that over the years has grown mind-numbingly complex — it takes a 220-page manual just to lay out the rules. And yet the system, after slicing and dicing all that data, spits out four rather vague and simplistic answers about school quality: Exemplary, Recognized, Acceptable and Unacceptable."


  • Democrat Bill White's campaign is circulating a letter of endorsement for the candidate signed by several prominent former backers of U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, the Fort Worth Star Telegram reports. The list includes major business and civic leaders, including John Adams, former CEO of Chase Bank of Texas.
  • Judge Sharon Keller, whom the State Commission on Judicial Conduct recently issued a "public warning" for her mishandling of an execution-day appeal, has asked the state Supreme Court to throw out the rebuke — which she says was unconstitutional to begin with.

"Nowhere is the media controlled more than it is here. There is total control." — A Mexican reporter on the nation's violence silencing its media. The reporter said he would face serious danger if identified.


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