by: Laurie Johnson, August 1, 2006 5:08:00 am
The number of Texas schools earning a Recognized or Exemplary rating increased by more than 1,000 campuses from 2,213 to 3,380. Texas Education Agency Commissioner Shirley Neeley says 28 percent of the districts also earned the top two ratings.
"I will tell you that it was a difficult school year, and this is, I think I am starting my 35th year in this awesome profession. And I look back at my career and I don't recall a year quite this difficult, quite this challenging. No one predicted Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the impact they would have on the schools of Texas."
Almost 47,000 students from Louisiana moved into Texas schools last year. About 35,000 of them remained in the system at the end of the school year. The vast majority of Texas children attend schools with an Academically Acceptable rating or higher. But Neeley says there was also a slight increase in the number of campuses which received an Academically Unacceptable rating.
"With the good you have to report the bad and my job is to give you the facts and figures today. Ninety-three point five percent of our Texas public students attended a campus in the '05-'06 school year that was rated at least Exemplary, Recognized or Acceptable, 93.5. Now while that's very good, we will not rest nor is our work complete until 100 percent of our schools are Acceptable, Recognized or Exemplary."
In the Houston Independent School District, 12 of the district's 33 high schools received an Academically Unacceptable rating, including the Sam Houston and Kashmere campuses which have received the rating for the fourth year in a row. HISD officials say they will move to close those campuses. The district also doubled its number of exemplary schools. Neeley says the influx of students from Louisiana and did not affect school ratings.
"These students aren't up to the Texas standard, they are two to three grade levels below our Texas students. They're not on the same reading level as our Texas students, or math or any other. We also ran into some issues with truancy, with discipline and certainly with all types of emotional needs that they had. And I promised every superintendent and every school board member that no school would lose their accountability rating because of children from Katrina."
State accountability ratings are based on academic performace, dropout rates, completion rates and improvement from the previous year. After announcing the state ratings, Neeley also announced a new independent task force to investigate allegations of cheating in Texas schools. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.