The vise squeezing Texas schools since the Legislature voted to remove $4 billion in state funding is getting a little tighter.

On July 29, the state released its latest accountability ratings for public school campuses in 1,228 of the state's traditional districts and charter schools — and while Education Commissioner Robert Scott said they present a "far more accurate look" at academic performance, they are markedly lower.

Far fewer schools achieved the highest ratings compared with last year. But the clincher is that 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.

Here's the breakdown of the changes: "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, and "Unacceptable" schools rose from 3 percent of all districts to 7.2 percent.

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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.

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