TEA: BSISD 'unacceptable'

Big Spring Independent School District was hammered in the latest round of school accountability ratings released by the Texas Education Agency Friday.BSISD received a district-wide rating of “Academically Unacceptable,” the lowest of four possible TEA ratings. In addition, all but one local campus’ academic performance was rated as unacceptable by the state education agency. Moss Elementary received a “Academically Acceptable” rating from TEA.The ratings are based on high school completion rates, dropout rates and passing rates on the state test, the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS).State-wide, the number of districts with the state’s lowest rating increased from 37 last year to 88 in 2011. The number of Academically Unacceptable campuses increased from 104 to 569, TEA figures show.Schools and districts rated as Academically Unacceptable failed to meet one of the following state requirements:• 70 percent passing rate among all students in all demographic areas in the reading, writing and social studies sections of the TAKS.• 65 percent passage rate among all students in all demographic areas in the math and science portions of the TAKS.• Annual dropout rate in grades 7 and 8 of 1.6 percent or lower.• Annual completion rate of 75 percent or greater.BSISD had a district-wide rating of Academically Acceptable in 2010.Superintendent Steven Saldivar said several factors contributed to this year’s low rating.First, Saldivar pointed to the elimination of the Texas Projected Measurement system in determining TAKS passage rates. Under TPM, if a student failed a portion of the TAKS but showed subsequent academic improvement, the district could predict that student’s future passage of the TAKS and that prediction would be reflected in the rating.“The state taking away TPM definitely affected our rating this year,” Saldivar said.Secondly, Salivar noted, TAKS scores from students with learning disabilities in special education and “life skills” classes were counted for the first time this year.“This was the first year that every student was counted (in the ratings calculations),” Saldivar said. “In past years, some students were exempted.”And the third factor Saldivar pointed to was TEA increasing the TAKS passing standards for the Academically Acceptable rating by five points each for mathematics and science.BSISD will not face any punitive action from TEA unless the unacceptable ratings continue for the next few years and Saldivar promised the district would do whatever it could to elevate future ratings.“We’re going to do whatever is required of us to improve our scores,” he said. “As superintendent, I accept responsibility (for this rating) … We’re still awaiting word of what we’re going to have to do, but we’ll do everything we can to improve those scores.”At the same time, Saldivar said the current rating system has school districts and campuses spending too much time and energy preparing students to take the standardized tests.“We’re focused on our students’ education,” Saldivar said. “We’re mandated by law to prepare our students for the TAKS … but I feel we over-test our students.“We try to focus on the whole child, not just a test they take on a certain day,” he added. “We are not just a test-prep school district … We’re on a journey to make sure our children are learning at a high level.”Contact Staff Writer Steve Reagan at 263-7331 ext. 235 or by e-mail at reporter@bigspringherald.com