Tuesday, May 26, 2009

TAKS scores could force two schools to close

May 20, 2009
By AMY JOHNSTON / KVUE News

The Texas Education Agency is expected to release TAKS Test results soon. And those are important numbers for Pearce Middle School and Reagan High School, which could be shut down for failing to meet state standards. While the official numbers are not back yet, schools have some preliminary data.

The district is not officially commenting. Late Wednesday KVUE learned the results showed lots of improvement, but it will be very close.

Allen Weeks is the head of the St. John Neighborhood Association. He's rallied support for both Reagan High School and Pearce Middle School.

"At Reagan, since January, we've had over 400 mentors and tutors added to the school," Weeks says.

He believes it's made a difference.

"It just feels good at these schools right now. If you go into a school that's demoralized and low performing, it doesn't feel good. These schools feel like they're on their way up," says Weeks.

And they have to be. They're facing possible closure by the state if students don't pass the TAKS Test. Pearce has failed to meet state standards for four years; Reagan for three years.

But both principals are optimistic. Anabel Garza is a first-year principal at Reagan.

"They've really listened to their teachers and done exactly what they've been asked to. The teachers have worked tirelessly, weekends, evenings, all the time. So the mood, though, is very optimistic and hopeful," says Garza.

She says the school is focused on test result data to target students' weak areas. And she says students have stepped up in the weeks before the exam.

"Any place, before school, after school, the tutoring was going on and kids were seeing it out. So the community was coming in and helping us," says Garza.

One of Reagan's feeder schools is Pearce Middle School. The state will likely shut down this school if it fails to meet state standards for the fifth year. Principal James Troutman doesn't think that will happen.

"We looked at the growth of our 8th grade students in reading. Last year in reading only 50% of them had passed the 7th grade reading. This time in 8th grade - the same group of kids had a 27 point jump. 77% of them passed," says Troutman.

But there are several tests results still out there. And the district has already had to start creating contingency plans for students if the state shuts down either one of these schools.

Another possible safety net for these schools is a bill in the Texas Legislature that appears will pass; it gives schools an additional year to meet state standards.

Thursday at Reagan, there will be a community forum to discuss student options if this school closes.

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