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The TAKS scores are out this afternoon, and we're hustling to pull all of the information together for you. Our focus, of course, is on how the schools in the Crossroads region rated.

We have most of the reporting staff working on talking with each district in our region. Along with seeing the specific results for your school, what questions do you have about the TAKS ratings? We'll do our best to answer them all.

The state released the information at 1 p.m. Friday. We know, for starters, that the Victoria Independent School District is rated as academically unacceptable for the low completion rate at Memorial High School.

Here is the press release from the district:


Despite growth in student achievement and improvement in the graduation rates, the Texas Education Agency has labeled Victoria ISD as “Academically Unacceptable” in the accountability ratings system released today.

Across the district, students showed gains in results on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) in 18 of 25 tests measured by subject and student group. The met standards percentage remained unchanged in four other areas. The percentage of students who graduated in four years or continued for a fifth year of high school also improved. The percentage of students who are identified as economically disadvantaged leaving school without a diploma did not meet the state minimum standards for the acceptable rating, triggering the Unacceptable rating.

Superintendent of Schools Bob Moore expressed disappointment in the rating and noted the district will appeal the label using data on specific students who were counted as drop-outs in error. A ruling on the appeal will not be made by the Commissioner of Education until October.

The accountability ratings are applied to the district as a whole and to each campus. Mirroring the results from 2008, four elementary schools again achieved the highest possible rating of “Exemplary” and eight other elementary schools earned a “Recognized” rating. Six schools, including three middle schools and three elementary schools were rated as “Academically Acceptable.” Memorial High School was rated “Academically Unacceptable” due to the completion rate of Economically Disadvantaged students. Profit Magnet High School and the Juvenile Justice Center School are rated under a different accountability system and met the standards for “Academically Acceptable.”

Campus by campus ratings are posted below:

Campus 2009 Rating

Aloe Elementary - Recognized

Chandler Elem. - Recognized

Crain Middle School - Acceptable

DeLeon Elementary - Exemplary

Dudley Elementary - Exemplary

F.W. Gross Elem. - Recognized

Guadalupe Elem. - Recognized

Hopkins Academy - Acceptable

Howell Middle - Acceptable

Juan Linn Elem. - Recognized

Juvenile Justice Ctr. - AEA: Acceptable

Memorial High - Academically Unacceptable

Mission Valley Elem. - Exemplary

O’Connor Elem. - Recognized

Patti Welder Middle - Acceptable

Profit Magnet HS - AEA: Acceptable

Rowland Elem. - Acceptable

Shields Elementary - Recognized

Smith Elementary - Exemplary

Vickers Elementary - Acceptable

Wm. Wood Elem. - Recognized

Despite expressing hope that the Commissioner of Education will grant the VISD appeal of the Academically Unacceptable rating, Superintendent Moore said, “If we are able to earn the Acceptable rating, we will not back away from our efforts to improve the graduation rates for all students.”

Moore continued, “It is unacceptable when one third of the economically disadvantaged students in this district take a course of action that will only result in the cycle of poverty continuing. It is unacceptable that students find themselves in a position of even thinking about dropping out of school. It is equally unacceptable, however, to paint the entire district as unacceptable with one broad stroke of a label based on the decision of 102 students to quit school.”

Executive Director of Research and Development Dr. Susanne Carroll noted significant improvement in TAKS scores in most test areas on almost every campus. “There are a few weak spots that campuses will be addressing, but overall, student achievement is on the rise,” she said. “Our greatest area of weakness district-wide is in science. We see that on the state averages, as well.”

Dr. Carroll said the district is beefing up science instruction with new programs and training for teachers. She explained that over the past year, the science curriculum has been redesigned in scope and sequences for lessons to be taught. The result will be more rigorous instruction that should translate into greater student success.

Moore said the completion rates for students is on the rise, thanks in part to efforts to address the needs of students who completed their coursework, but still needed to pass one or more sections of the TAKS. “Administrators and staff from central office and the campuses literally made door to door stops at student homes to encourage the students to re-enroll for TAKS classes. Other volunteers made contact with students who did not come back to school at the start of the new year trying to convince them to keep moving forward on that diploma,” Moore said.

Carroll also credited a program offered for the first time in the 2008-2009 school year for some of the increase. The program offered students a flexible school day allowing for late afternoon and evening classes to gain course credit and to get special help in preparing for the exit level TAKS tests. The program was offered through Profit Magnet High School and will be offered again this year.

The efforts made in face-to-face meetings and providing alternative programs coupled with the efforts to strengthen student achievement paid off with a two and a half percentage point increase in the completion rate comparing 2008 to 2009. The completion rate for African American students made a large 6.2 point gain and the Hispanic rate improved by over three points. Despite an almost 3 point increase in the completion rate for Economic Disadvantaged students the improvement was not enough to meet the state minimum criteria.

The “Academically Unacceptable” rating is particularly ironic for Moore in light of legislation passed in May that will change how completion rates are calculated. “Some of the students who were counted as dropouts in this report would not have been counted as dropouts under a new law. House Bill 3 recognizes that it is not fair to penalize a school district for a decision by a judge to order a student to work toward a GED rather than a high school diploma,” Moore said. “If a student is in a courtroom and the judge tells that student to enroll in a GED program, that should not have a negative impact on the entire school district.”

Moore added that there is some question at TEA as to whether or not that particular provision of the bill will go into immediate effect or if it will take another year to implement. “In any case,” Moore said, “while the people in Austin debate the finer points of the legislation, we live with the label and continue to do our best to meet the needs to all students.”

House Bill 3 also removes students who are documented to have left Texas to move to other states from the cohort group that determines completion rates. Similarly, students who are from other school districts who are incarcerated at the Victoria County Juvenile Justice Center will no longer be included in the accountability group under the legislation. If those students who are counted as part of the accountability group under previous law are removed from the accountability system, the VISD completion rate would be within the range of Academically Acceptable in all areas, according to Moore.

What the label means for Victoria ISD is difficult to measure, Dr. Carroll said. “We know that under the accountability system, we will be required to submit numerous plans and documents on how we will address the issue. What cannot be measured is the impact of the label on the staff, students and community,” she said. “Our colleagues, students, parents, and volunteers have worked so hard to improve our schools and at the same time we are seeing improvement, to be told that it is not acceptable is disheartening, at best.”

“One thing is for certain,” Moore said. “We will open schools on August 24 with heads held high. We will continue our move to smaller learning communities with the opening of two elementary schools this year and a new middle school and two high schools the following year. We will continue to make strides in improving the educational opportunities for all students. Despite this ratings setback, we are going to move forward with the same determination and resolve to make Victoria ISD a premiere school district in the State of Texas.”