Dallas ISD Says As Many As 33 Schools May Be Rated Academically Unacceptable

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We went over this last year: Despite the fact the Dallas Independent School District board was just given a presentation on preliminary TAKS scores for the school year that just wrapped, the Texas Education Agency won't formally release its 2011 Accountability Ratings till July 29. That said, there are some notable items of interest and concern, chief among them: The district says 33 schools may be rated Academically Unacceptable, more than doubling last year's total of 14.

The district's release blames that jump, in part, on the fact the state no longer uses the controversial (and now outlawed) Texas Projection Measure, which juiced the numbers.

"Absolutely, of course" it's troubling, DISD spokesman Jon Dahlander says. "The thing is, the scores of the students haven't necessarily changed, and it can be demoralizing to the schools but the bottom line is: What are we doing for each child? That's what we've always been concerned about." Dahlander also says a 5-percent increase in some state standards affected this year's results.

[Update: When I initially caught Dahlander to talk test scores, he was in the middle of giving his upstairs-snack bar lunch order. He has asked for the opportunity to clarify and sends this: "We've seen progress during the last five years in every subject, and that continued this year in math, science and social studies. Because the criteria changed, however, it can be demoralizing to schools. The bottom line, however, school ratings or not, should be what are we doing for each child? That's what we should always be concerned about."]

Nevertheless, here's the drill: Dahlander says eight of the 33 were already on the AU list. Depending upon how long they've been on there, there could be significant consequences. First-year AU's would get "a technical advisory team to help then work out a plan to improve the school," TEA spokesperson DeEtta Culbertson tells Unfair Park. "At year two they have to prepare a reconstitutional plan, and if they got into three years, they have to implement that plan. After that the sanctions only get heavier: A conservator or monitor might be brought in to work with the school, and most serious would be the state closes the campus and has it repurposed."

I listened in on some of the presentation following the budget discussion, and Cecilia Oakeley, associate superintendent over Evaluation and Accountability, was the one walking the trustees through the presentation. At one point she pointed to the drop in writing scores and said, yes, Dallas dropped 3 percentage points -- but Houston and the state as a whole dropped 2 points, so the DISD's more or less on par with its peers.

She also blamed the drop on the fact that "little by little the state infused STAAR-type items into" the TAKS test, and teachers didn't prep their students accordingly. Bernadette Nutall and Mike Morath said, look, you wanna speculate, that's fine. But where's the info to back that up? Culbertson's looking into that and says she'll get back to us with the answer.

[Update: Culbertson says that while there was some STAAR "field testing" during the school year, there was absolutely no commingling of the two during the TAKS testing.]

Mortath also didn't like comparing Houston and Dallas, since, as he put it, "Houston's Highland Park" is actually in the HISD, which tends to skew its scores.

Regardless, the district's got serious issues to address: "We had made progress," Dahlander says, "and we could be back there again," referring to state sanctions over the number of AUs.

The whole announcement follows.


Gains and Decreases Mirror Results Statewide;

Number of Unacceptable Schools Expected to Increase

DALLAS- Students in the Dallas Independent School District posted gains in the subjects of mathematics, social studies and science on this year's Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.

Preliminary results were presented to the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees today.

The percentage of Dallas ISD students passing the Mathematics test increased by 1.2 percent while the percentage of students passing the state's science and social studies tests increased 0.9 percent in both subjects. The percentage of district students passing the state's reading test dropped 0.1 percent, while the percentage of district students passing the state writing test, given in both 4th and 7th grade, fell 1.2 percent.

Overall, the gains and decreases in Dallas ISD were similar to how students performed statewide. Dallas' gains were greater than the amounts of positive change statewide in math, science and social studies.

Dallas ISD also saw gains in all subjects except writing in the percentage of students passing at commended levels. The percentage of students passing at commended levels in science increased 2.1 percent and in social studies by 3.1 percent. The percentage of students passing at the commended level in reading/English/Language Arts and Mathematics increased by 1.5 percent and 1.2 percent respectively. The percentage of students passing at commended levels in writing decreased by 1.3%.

The percentage of African American students passing the Mathematics test, which has been an emphasis of the board and administration, improved during 2011. From 2010 to 2011, Dallas had equal or higher gains than the state in 7 of 9 grade comparisons. During the same period, the percentage of African American students passing at commended levels in Dallas was equal or higher than gains made at the state level in 8 of 9 grade comparisons.

A number of accountability standards changed in 2011. The standard to be named an academically acceptable school was raised 5 percent in both math and science. The state also required more special education students be included in accountability ratings. New requirements, including commended performance and English language learner progress, were added for schools to be named Recognized and Exemplary. In addition, the state no longer uses the Texas Projection Measure, which gauges indicators of future student progress.

With these changes factored in, it appears that Dallas ISD will have 30 Exemplary schools and as many as 66 Recognized schools when accountability ratings are released in late July/early August. 94 schools will likely be rated Academically Acceptable and 33 schools may be rated Academically Unacceptable, based on academic performance. Had the Texas Projection Measure remained in use, 50 district schools would have been rated Exemplary, 67 schools would be rated Recognized and 5 schools would be rated Academically Unacceptable based on academic performance.

Overall, passing rates in Dallas ISD rose slightly, which were similar to state changes. Commended rate gains in Dallas ISD surpassed passing rate gains in Reading, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies. Science and mathematics showed the highest increase in percent passing since 2005 and social studies showed the highest increase in percent commended, up 24 points, since 2005.

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