Parents confused by local school ratings

February 28, 2011 5:42:16 PM PST
Parents are questioning moves by the Houston Independent School District. HISD has some schools on the list of the Apollo 20 schools, but parents at some of these schools say it isn't necessary. Parents say they're confused. Their children's elementary school is recognized by the state, but HISD says it's low performing. The parents say they don't understand why the state and the district don't appear to be in line with each other.

It's one of the first things you see driving to Isaacs Elementary in northeast Houston -- signs proclaiming the campus as recognized. However, some parents found it is not a rating shared by HISD. They wonder why.

"In the beginning, you guys sent us flyers, telling us our grades were good and we were recognized by Texas," said parent Maria Sustaita. "So why all of a sudden are we low performing and becoming Apollo?"

According to the Texas Education Agency, a recognized campus means students have an 80 percent pass rate overall on TAKS, the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test, a point of pride for parents.

"The question the students are asking is why are we commending and now low-performing," said parent Leticia Castaneda. "We want to know."

Isaacs was added this month to the Apollo 20 school turn-around initiative developed by HISD for low-performing schools, yet of the 11 schools added, only two are considered low-performing by the state. Five are acceptable and four, including Isaacs, are rated as recognized.

"The TAKS, at times, can be misleading because you can be exemplary or recognized and yet your passing rates were very, very low," said Sam Sarabia with HISD.

Sarabia says Apollo 20 relies on more than the TAKS, looking at Stanford as well as overall test performance.

"It's not a matter of yes, we passed," said Sarabia. "It looks good, but we want them to pass very, very strongly."

They're distinctions parent want cleared up.

"I would like for them to come and speak to parents and staff and have a general information meeting and find out what's going to happen, when it's happening and why it's happening," said Sustaita.

The Apollo 20 initiative started last year at nine middle schools and high schools. Those schools have implemented a longer school year, longer school days and tutoring. HISD says elementary schools will not have longer days or a longer year, but focus on more instructional time and intensive tutoring.