More than 92 percent of districts and nearly 85 percent of Texas schools meet the state's minimum education standards and many earned distinctions, the Texas Education Agency said Thursday in releasing ratings using a new accountability system.
Education Commissioner Michael Williams scrapped the old system that relied on standardized test scores. The new accountability system uses test scores, graduation rates and college admission exams to calculate indexes for student achievement, student progress, student readiness for college or work and how well a school is helping disadvantaged children.
Forty-two percent of the state's schools won recognition for student progress, mathematics or English. The agency said 778 schools and 80 districts require improvement.
"The 2013 ratings confirm that the vast majority of districts and campuses are meeting the state's standards and providing a quality education for our students," Williams said. "Under the new accountability system, these designations recognize outstanding work at the campus level that would not be acknowledged in previous years."
STAAR standardized test scores make up the first of four indexes to a school's rating. The others include student progress on those tests, the school's pace in closing the performance gap for disadvantaged kids and the student's readiness for life after high school by looking at graduation rates and scores on college placement tests.
Schools and districts will no longer receive the exemplary, recognized, academically acceptable and academically unacceptable ratings, which school administrators complained were unfairly based solely on test scores. For now districts and schools will have either "met standard," ''met alternative standard" or "improvement required."
Individual campuses can earn distinctions such as "Top 25 percent: Student Progress," ''Academic Achievement: Reading/English Language Arts" and "Academic Achievement: Mathematics." The agency will grant the higher ratings based on exceeding the minimum goals set out in the accountability system.
The state rated 1,228 districts and 8,555 schools, including charter schools and alternative education programs. About 95 percent of public school districts and 79.7 percent of charter operators met the standard.
Almost 12 percent of elementary schools needed improvement compared to 8.8 percent of middle schools and 9.6 percent of high schools.
"Despite the many positive numbers, I am confident school leaders across our state share my concern for the number of campuses where improvement is still required, especially at the elementary level," Williams said. "If we can target our efforts in those grade levels today, the state will see improvements for all students in the years ahead."
State Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, urged parents to review the ratings for their schools carefully.
"While the data are helpful, it's important to remember the ratings mostly ignore skills that can't be tested and largely reflect what happens at home, not school," he said. "Clearly we have more work to do to improve our schools and develop an accountability system that isn't narrowly focused on testing."