Milam schools join state in AYP ‘miss-ery’

RISD falls short for fifth consecutive year

Rockdale Independent School District (RISD) fell short of federal “no child left behind” standards for the fifth straight year in 2012, and had plenty of company, county and statewide.

Nineteen of the 22 school districts and campuses in Milam County also came up short in the annual Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) rankings, and the other three which “met" the standard didn’t actually meet anything. They didn’t have any scores to test.

Statewide, almost one in two (48 percent) Texas schools failed to meet the standards, which have become the topic of political wrangling between Texas and the federal U. S. Dept. of Education.

Area officials aren’t pleased that the yearly “one size fits all” ratings continue to present a moving target of test score results that keeps changing year to year.

“We’re disappointed in this rating, even though we knew how the numbers were coming out.” RISD Supt. Dr. Howell Wright said. “We know we’re doing some good things and our test score numbers are improving. The way it’s set up, it’s kind of like a team finishing a season 9-1 and being rated on your one loss.”

NUMBERS GAME—AYP standards are based on interpretation of the state’s standardized testing scores and are always complex, but are even more opaque this year.

That’s because Texas is in a transition year between the old TAKS and new STAAR tests. The Texas Education Agency had to come up with a 44-page “bridging” formula to translate test scores.

And the Department of Education raised its “passing” marks from 80 to 87 percent for reading and 75 to 83 percent in math.

Districts and campuses not only have to reach those standards in the overall school population, but also in each individual economic and ethnic sub-group, or they receive a failing grade.

What about the three campuses which apparently “met” the standards, Rockdale Elementary, Cameron Ben Milam Elementary and Milano High School?

The two primary-grade campuses don’t have any of the grades (3-8 and 10) on which AYP scores are based. And Milano High School doesn’t have enough sophomores for the test scores to be deemed statistically significant and got a pass.

RECOGNIZED—Dr. Wright noted that if last year’s “prebridge” number standards had been in place, Rockdale Intermediate would have received a “recognized” rating this year, while Rockdale Junior-High School would have been “acceptable.”

There were no TEA (state level) accountability ratings this year, due to the TAKS-STAAR transition.

As AND Bs—Dr. Wright, like most Texas superintendents, is concerned that the public will see only the “met/not met” rating and not comprehend what he termed an “absurd” rating scale.

“You (campuses) can make whatweconsideraB(80to82 percent) and not meet AYP,” he said. “Next year, you have to make an A to make AYP.”

And the following year, 2014?

Texas schools will have to score 100 percent on the AYP rating scale or they will be judged to have not met the federal standard.

“So, in 2014, 99 percent of our students could pass and that will still not be acceptable to the federal government,” he said.

“I wonder what kind of government we would have, state or federal, if we held them accountable 100 percent of the time?” he asked.

Last year, 15 of the 22 districts or campuses in Milam County met the AYP standards, including Rockdale’s high school, intermediate and elementary campuses.

WAIVER—Long-term consecutive failures to meet AYP standards can bring sanctions on schools.

Rockdale ISD is already working with the TEA on an improvement plan.

Dr. Wright said a “snapshot” evaluation by the education agency has resulted in a “good plan” being put in place.

“We’re doing a lot of work,” he said. “We’re making progress.”

The “No Child Left Behind” enabling legislation leaves open the process of state-by-state waivers from the process and 33 waivers have already been granted by the U. S. Dept. of Education.

But Texas is among the states which hasn’t asked for a waiver, questioning the federal requirement process as possibly more difficult for local districts in the long run.

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