ISDs fall short of fed standards

All three Howard County school districts received sub-par ratings in the latest round of federal accountability listings.Almost three quarters of Texas' public school district failed to meet Average Yearly Performance (AYP) benchmarks this year, according to information released Wednesday by the Texas Education Agency.TEA noted that only 28 percent of the state's school districts — and 44 percent of individual campuses — received passing AYP marks this year, a fact the agency blamed on a substantial increase in requirements.Districts and campuses met AYP standards this year if 87 percent or more of their students passed the state reading/English language arts test; 83 percent of their students passed the state mathematics test; 95 percent of their students participated in the state testing program and, depending on the grade level, had either a 75 percent graduation rate or a 90 percent attendance rate. Twenty-eight percent of Texas districts met these high standards.Howard County AYP results are as follows:• Big Spring ISD — The district and all but two campuses failed to meet AYP requirements in both reading and mathematics.• Coahoma ISD — The district and Coahoma Junior High didn't meet AYP benchmarks in mathematics.• Forsan ISD — The district and the high school/junior high campus failed to meet AYP requirements in mathematics.Other area school district AYP results included:• Glasscock County ISD — met AYP requirements at both the district and campus level.• Grady ISD — met AYP requirements at both the district and campus level.• Sands CISD — met AYP requirements at the district and campus level.• Stanton ISD — met AYP requirements at the district level and at the high school and junior high, but failed to meet the benchmarks for reading and mathematics at the elementary school.This is the third consecutive year Big Spring ISD has failed to meet AYP standards, but Superintendent Steven Saldivar vowed the district would continue working to improve student performance.“We're not going to make any excuses for it, we're just going to focus on making improvements,” Saldivar said. “We're going to look at the data and see where we need to go academically … above all, our focus will remain doing everything we can to provide the best education for our kids.”Forsan ISD Superintendent Randy Johnson was quick to agree with TEA that increased standards were the major reason his district failed to meet the AYP guidelines.“To say Forsan met AYP for the past 10 years or however long it's been, and then didn't meet it this year doesn't mean our test scores were any worse,” Johnson said. “It just means the passing standards keep going up and up.” And standards are going to keep increasing to the point that all students will be required to pass state reading and math tests by the year 2014, a point that drew scorn from Johnson.“Obviously, 100 percent of our students are not going to pass their state tests,” he said. “So, we're reaching the point where they'll raise the standards to the point of meaninglessness.”Saldivar said increased standards are just something Big Spring ISD will have to contend with.FISD missed AYP standards by fewer than 5 points in two socio-economic subgroups, he added.“We'll just concern ourselves with things we can control,” he said. “To that point, we've instituted a system that we believe will help us meet those academic needs … Our teachers already work hard and we're going to work smarter.”This marks the second consecutive year that Coahoma ISD has failed to meet AYP standards, Superintendent Amy Jacobs said.“I'm not surprised by the overall state ratings, because we knew the passing standards were going up so considerably,” Jacobs said. “It was a high bar that was set … and we're going to use it as motivation to improve our students' performance in the classroom.”Failure to meet AYP for more than one year forces districts to submit an improvement plan to TEA. If standards aren't met in the future, districts could be faced with more severe sanctions.