April 5, 2006, 10:30PM
TEA won't penalize schools hit by Rita
The affected campuses will be listed as 'not rated' if TAKS scores fall
By JANET ELLIOTT
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau
AUSTIN - Schools in counties hard-hit by Hurricane Rita won't be rated on their students' performance on state-mandated tests this year, the education commissioner announced Wednesday.
Districts that were closed for 10 or more instruction days between Sept. 21 and Nov. 3, 2005, along with districts in counties designated as disaster areas by the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be listed as "not rated" if their rating drops from last year.
"This decision addresses the significant impact on instruction caused by this event," Commissioner Shirley Neeley said. "Districts and campuses that overcame the adversity and continued to improve or maintain performance are credited with a rating."
Neeley said last month that test scores of students displaced from their home districts by Hurricane Katrina will be removed from the accountability data.
School ratings are announced each August. Last year, ratings were down across the state under tougher passing standards on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.
That trend could continue this year as the standards for a school to be rated "academically acceptable" increase for all subject exams. For example, 60 percent overall of the students and each individual student group (black, Hispanic, white and economically disadvantaged) must pass the reading, writing and social studies tests. Only 50 percent were required to pass those tests last year.
This year, 40 percent of students must pass math and 35 percent must pass science for a campus to get the acceptable designation.
Students first took the TAKS in 2003, and schools were initially rated under the tougher test in 2004. Education officials had predicted it would take time and hard work before student performance equaled the levels reached on the previous test, which was used to rate schools for nine years.
Neeley said the standard will continue to increase by 5 percentage points for all subjects in 2007, overruling an advisory group of educators that had recommended no change in reading, writing and social studies next year.
The standard will increase another 5 percentage points in 2008 and 2009. In 2010, only math and science standards will be increased, and the TAKS will be fully phased in.
"These increases acknowledge that more students need to be performing at higher levels sooner and gaps in achievement among the student groups need to be closed more rapidly," Neeley said.