Monday, August 1, 2011
Almost half Collin County ISDs lose ground in school ratings
Wylie ISD has the lowest rating.
On Friday, the Texas Eduction Agency (TEA) released its 2011 Accountability Reports.
Last year, six ISDs were rated "Exemplary," but this year only Frisco ISD and Lovejoy ISD were able to maintain their top-ranked rating.
Allen ISD, Celina ISD, Melissa ISD, and Prosper had their status lowered from Exemplary to "Recognized." Six other districts were rated Recognized two years in a row, including Anna ISD, Blue Ridge ISD, Farmersville ISD, McKinney ISD, Plano ISD, and Princeton ISD.
The Community ISD and Wylie ISD were lowered from Recognized to "Academically Acceptable."
2011 Collin County ISD ratings
|ISD||2011 Rating||2010 Rating||Tax Rate|
Every two years, the legislature plays a ping pong game of education with complaints from public critics and school districts.
Two years ago the school districts were upset with their low 2008 rankings. In the past several years, many school principles and administrators have lost their jobs over the state's published performance statistics. Cities and chambers of commerce are acutely aware of the effects of low school ratings and property values.
For the 2009 ratings, the TEA used a method called the "Texas Projection Measure" (TPM). Using this model, in many cases while the students failed the TAKS tests at a greater rate, the schools gained higher ratings. By giving less weight to the tests, the TPM used predictions that the students would do better in the future.
In April this year, TEA Commissioner Robert Scott ended the TPM and instituted the "Accountability" system, resulting in the 2011 ratings. The 2011 ratings on average were lower than the 2008 average, before TPM was used.
The criticism leveled against the TEA as a result of the 2009 ratings inspired the creation of the TPM to inflate the schools ratings. Critics then demanded that the TEA change the rating system so it grades the actual current performance of all schools.
Now many Texas school districts are complaining that they are being punished with lower ratings. They say the new system gives greater weight to improvement in the lowest groups that are performing the worst.
The Accountability System identifies groups, such as ethnic groups and economically-disadvantaged students. The report then gives a score on how each of the groups improved in performance in each subject.
The Dallas Morning News reported that Commissioner Robert Scott said, “There will no longer be any allegations that we are pumping up the numbers...the numbers are real this year.”
Wylie ISD in the pits
The Wylie ISD has the lowest rating of the Collin County school districts. The Grady Burnett Junior High School in the Wylie ISD was the only public school in Collin County rated as "Academically Unacceptable," the lowest given rank.
A close look at Grady Burnett Junior High School shows that minorities and poorer students are doing much worse than white, middle-class kids. But all students, including whites, had worse scores than last year. The school's student performance scores in all groups declined in Reading and Writing. All students improved in Social Studies.
But African Americans and economically disadvantage students dramatically declined in performance of Math and Science. Because of those declines in scores Grady Burnett was rated Academically Unacceptable.
The Wylie ISD had 9 schools rated Exemplary, 8 Recognized, and one rated Academically Acceptable in 2010.
In 2011, the Wylie ISD only had 2 schools rated Exemplary, 15 Recognized, 1 Academically Acceptable, and 1 rated Academically Unacceptable.
Taxes and performance
Schools throughout Texas have been impacted by lower revenues. In 2006, the legislature passed a major rollback of property taxes and limited a school districts' ability to raise higher taxes. Since then, the legislature has provided less and less state tax money for schools. All school districts are in a financial pinch, and they claim that the Accountability Method requires the districts to spend more on the most expensive student groups who need the most improvement.
Property in high valuation districts like Frisco and Lovejoy have been able to maintain an Exemplary rating while keeping property tax rates below the county's average.
However even most of Collin County's districts with more modest property values have been able to provide their citizens' a school rated recognized. For example, Farmersville, not a wealthy community, has been been able to keep a Recognized district and also keep the districts' tax rate ($1.31/$100 valuation) as the lowest in the county.
Plano ISD, which has the second lowest property tax rate in Collin County, has kept the Recognized rating the same as in the previous year. The Dallas Morning News' Plano Blog reports that although the district is rated Recognized, it has lost from 28 to less than 10 campuses rated Exemplary to Recognized, and that 18 schools have been lower rated as Academically Acceptable from Recognized. "There doesn't appear to be any huge cause of concern," Jim Hirsch, Plano ISD's associate superintendent for academic and technology services said. "We're pleased in general our students continue to perform well."
But in districts with the highest tax rates, three of four have had their Accountability Rates lowered.
Even these highest tax rate districts seem to be giving their children less than the best educational performance. Blue Ridge ISD, which has the county's highest tax rates, has only been able to maintain a Recognized rating. Melissa, Prosper, and Celina are high tax districts which have been lowered from Exemplary to Recognized. And Wylie ISD, with the second highest tax rate in Collin County, was reduced to Academically Acceptable, the lowest education rating in the county.
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