Keep in mind that these figures do not reflect students that are no longer in the system. Some of which were counted as dropouts, and others have disappeared from the the data altogether.
By Melissa B. Taboada and Laura Heinauer | AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Friday, May 27, 2011
Austin school district officials changed Johnston High School's name, redesigned its approach to teaching the curriculum and were required to replace more than three-quarters of its faculty, but it appears the campus, which has struggled for years to meet state academic standards, again will rank among Austin's most troubled schools.
More than 29 percent of students at what's now Eastside Memorial Green Tech High School at the Johnston Campus will be ineligible to graduate next week after failing state-mandated exit exams.
Overall, 92 percent of Austin students passed the exit-level Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, which matches the statewide average, according to figures released Thursday. The numbers varied from school to school: 21 percent of seniors from Reagan and LBJ high schools failed to pass; the highest exit-level passing rate, 100 percent, came from the Liberal Arts and Science Academy .
Students must pass all four parts of the exit-level exam, and pass their classes, to receive a diploma from Texas public schools. Students had five chances, beginning their junior year, to pass the exams before graduation, but 194 Austin students did not pass one test, and 117 needed two or more tests, district documents show. In all, 33 Eastside students didn't pass in time for graduation, although they can continue to test to get their diplomas.
Austin school district officials didn't respond to repeated requests for more information or comment Thursday.
In a statement, officials said preliminary results from the first 2011 TAKS administration show that in four of five test subjects, districtwide passing rates for all grades will either improve or remain the same. Passing rates for reading fell 1 percentage point — the statement wasn't more specific — in four grades.
The district's statement did not mention the exit-level exam at all.
"As another school year comes to a close, it's rewarding to know that the hard work of our teachers and students has paid off," Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said in the statement. "There is little doubt, that rule changes announced by the (Texas Education Agency) Commissioner on April 23 (regarding not using a formula that boosted some campus accountability ratings in the past) will have a significant negative impact on campus ratings."
An Austin school district spokeswoman said late Thursday afternoon that she couldn't speak on the exit-level results and that at least one administrator who could was away from the office at a retirement party.
A performance administrator, when questioned Thursday via cellphone text messages, replied that he couldn't comment because he didn't have the district's data on hand.
Statewide, passing rates on the TAKS test have ticked up since 2003, when the test was first administered. Passing standards have gotten tougher over the years as well.
State accountability ratings won't come out until the end of July.
How the district and its individual campuses rate this year is significant, because state ratings may stick for two years. The Texas Education Agency is moving from the TAKS to the new State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, starting with third- to ninth-graders in 2011-12. And during the transition, the state won't count results from that test for accountability ratings.
Also, the state this year won't use the Texas Projection Measure, which counts as passing the TAKS some students who didn't, based on past and anticipated improvement.
"With the changes that are occurring we do expect to see a decrease in ratings, not just for schools but also for school districts," said Round Rock school district Superintendent Jesús Chávez. He said scores in his district — where 91 percent of 11th-graders passed the TAKS on the first try — may be lower this year because teacher layoff announcements came just as testing was getting under way.
"It has impact (on) the mental state of teachers and students who were very worried that their teacher had been let go. It's probably not in the best state of mind in performing your best," Chávez said. "It's not an excuse for lower scores, but it does have an impact."
Not all area districts had a chance to analyze their data as of Thursday.
Last year, the projection measure, boosted three Austin schools from "academically unacceptable," the state's lowest rating, to "academically acceptable."
Despite the curve last year, Eastside Memorial has failed to meet state standards for the past two years. The campus was Austin's only unacceptable school in 2010.
Schools that received the rating for three years in a row can be repurposed, turned over to alternative management or closed . A law passed by the state House and Senate this session also allows parents students in chronically underperforming schools to request that the state education commissioner order closure.
Johnston was previously closed in 2008. The so-called accountability clock started over when it reopened as Eastside.
Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe said the school's fate won't be decided until final test scores and completion rate data are available in the next few months. She said it would be unusual for a school that had only three years of low performance to be closed but added that Eastside Memorial does have a unique history.
Austin district officials, meanwhile, already have made plans to strengthen the school. Eastside Memorial, which houses the Green Tech and Global Tech academies under the same roof, will be consolidated under a new principal and could get yet another new name , according to plans the school board approved Monday .
The district has plans to increase instruction time, place teachers and staff on improvement plans and use more data-driven instruction. The district may use an outside group to help reform the school, district documents show.
Austin district 2011 results
High school Students who failed the
Eastside Memorial Green Tech 29%
Garza Independence 7%
Liberal Arts and Science Academy 0%
Source: Austin school district