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With Change in Formula, School Ratings Drop Precipitously

The new accountability ratings released Friday for public school campuses in the state's 1,228 districts and charter schools are markedly lower from the ratings given last year.

Texas Commissioner of Education Robert Scott speaks at the TASA midwinter conference in Austin, Texas February 1st, 2011

The new accountability ratings released Friday for public school campuses in the state's 1,228 districts and charter schools present a "far more accurate look" at academic performance, Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott said.

They are also markedly lower — with far fewer schools achieving the highest ratings than last year. Instead, most schools fall in the middle "acceptable" category.

Many districts find themselves with lower ratings even though their student achievement has remained the same. That's because the formula used to calculate the ratings, based primarily on students' standardized test scores, no longer includes a mechanism called the Texas Projection Measure. The TPM gauged students’ future test scores based on a campus-wide average instead of using their actual test scores and had the effect of giving schools credit for students passing when they hadn't.

In April, Scott announced he would discontinue the measure after state lawmakers took a unanimous vote against it during debate on a testing bill.

Here are the changes in ratings from 2010 to 2011:

  • "Exemplary" schools dropped from 19.5 percent of all districts to 5 percent
  • "Recognized" schools dropped from 49.1 percent of all districts to 34.4 percent
  • "Acceptable" schools rose from 27.6 percent of all districts to 53.3 percent
  • "Unacceptable" schools rose from 3 percent of all districts to 7.2 percent.

(Find a detailed description of what the ratings mean on the Texas Education Agency's website.)

At a press conference today in which he released the ratings, Scott said that despite the fact that fewer schools achieved the highest categories, the "school system as a whole is strong" and that parents should feel confident that the ratings are "absolutely real and valid." 

These ratings will stay in place for the next two years to give schools a chance to adjust to STAAR, the state's new, more rigorous standardized testing system, which will be rolled out next spring.

Scott also said that two districts would lose their accreditation. One of those is Houston's North Forest ISD. He declined to name the second district because it had yet to be notified.

We're putting together a searchable database of all campus ratings that will be available later this afternoon. Check this space for updates.

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