By TAWNELL D. HOBBS / The Dallas Morning News
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Three dozen Dallas schools risk dropping in the state's rating system next year under upcoming tougher standards, trustees were told Thursday.
DISD administrators told the school board about several changes expected to affect next year's accountability ratings, including increased passing-rate standards for math and science, the inclusion of all scores for special education students, and a tougher standard to achieve the second-highest rating, "recognized."
"There's a lot more that's going to be impacted," DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said. "It's going to be a bigger challenge. It is scary for the principals."
The district projected, based on current test scores under the new rules, that the number of Dallas schools rated "recognized" could drop from 84 to 58. Schools with the lowest rating, "academically unacceptable," would increase from 13 to 23.
Most of the schools that could lose their recognized rating are projected to fall into the "academically acceptable" category, taking that number up to 97 from 77. The schools with the highest rating, "exemplary," would drop off slightly from 46 to 45.
District administrators hope schools will continue making progress and won't be affected much by the changes. Hinojosa said he would "be very disappointed" if the district lost 26 recognized schools. He said board members were briefed on the changes so they would know the possible impact on Dallas schools.
A list of potentially affected schools was not revealed at the meeting.
Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe said big districts, like DISD, could be hit "pretty hard" by a rule change for counting scores for special education students.
She said that all Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills scores for special education students will now be included in the ratings. She added that the TAKS passing rate standards for math and science would increase by 5 percentage points, while the overall passing rate required to achieve "recognized" status will also increase by 5 percentage points.
There is a bright spot for school districts.
The Texas Projection Measure is being expanded to include science scores for eighth-grade students. The measure allows schools to count students who failed the TAKS as passing if they are predicted to pass in a future year because they have shown significant progress. Reading and math are already being projected under the rule.
Some trustees wondered how best to explain the changes to constituents without confusing them about the district's progress.
In August, DISD celebrated big surges in recognized and exemplary schools when last year's school ratings were released.
"The frustration is that we're doing so well, but it's hard to get the message out because we're competing with these other factors," Trustee Leigh Ann Ellis said. "It's hard for folks to understand the progress that we're making."
But trustee Carla Ranger said, "The standards are what they are." She said that she'd like more information on where the schools are now academically.
Hinojosa said he advises principals to focus on the curriculum and not just passing the TAKS because the state is making constant changes.
"We keep telling the principals, 'Don't just keep focusing on the TAKS test because that thing is going to keep changing,' " he said.