State's Big 5 school districts fail fed standards
HOUSTON Preliminary records released in Austin by the Texas Education Agency showed for the third consecutive year Dallas, Houston and San Antonio fell short of the standards. Austin failed last year, and this was the first year for El Paso. Failure next year by Dallas, Houston and San Antonio means any student from those districts could transfer to a school in a higher-performing district and receive free transportation, according to agency spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson. Overall, 78 percent of Texas school districts met federal standards this year. To pass, 73 percent of a district's students must pass the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, or TAKS test, reading test and 67 percent must pass the math test. Last year, 81 percent of districts passed, but the standards were stricter this year, the agency said. The state provides a modified test for special education students, and under a compromise with federal officials, only a portion of those tests that pass are allowed to be counted in federal standards, Culbertson explained. "Due to federal regulations, most special education students who pass any TAKS test are not counted as passers," she said. Districts that failed to meet standards are required to create plans to improve. For example, Austin district officials must develop a district improvement plan that addresses professional development and parental involvement programming for reading and math. Dallas, Houston and San Antonio districts created those programs last year and must implement them this year and show improvement by next year, or they will face further sanctions, including the so-called "student choice" option. Schools must meet the standards two years in a row to be considered improved. El Paso does not face sanctions this year but will if it does not meet the standards again next year. The most common reason districts failed was in math tests, Culbertson said. The state Board of Education will begin revisions on the math curriculum in the fall to address those issues. On July 30, the agency announced its statewide test results. More than two-thirds of Texas school districts received one of the two highest possible ratings, an improvement over last year's scores largely due to a measure that allows students to be credited for improvement, even if they did not pass the test.