About Half of Texas Schools Fail Federal Standards- AYP

About half of all campuses statewide failed to meet federal standards based on the No Child Left Behind Act, and more area schools than ever also missed the mark because of tougher passing standards, according to state data released Wednesday.
Forty-eight percent of schools in Texas were classified as failing to meet Adequate Yearly Progress standards, which can bring down sanctions on schools if they are repeatedly not met.
Federal and state officials saw the poor results coming.
Last summer, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the increasingly higher bar required by the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act — passing standards for reading increased this year from 80 to 87 percent, math standards from 75 to 83 percent, and all students must be proficient in both by 2014 — could mean that 82 percent of all schools nationwide could be classified as failing this year.
Duncan gave states the option to seek a waiver to be exempt from the federal requirements, saying states needed relief because the reauthorization of the act was "moving too slowly in Congress."
Thirty-three waivers have been granted, but Texas was among a handful of states that did not apply, balking at federal requirements.
To receive the waiver, a state must have established postsecondary readiness standards, which Texas has. But state officials said the process for showing that those standards qualify was too onerous. And the state education commissioner, Robert Scott, who has since resigned, said he was reluctant to in effect "turn over the education system of Texas to the federal government."
On Wednesday, a spokeswoman said the Texas Education Agency is evaluating whether filing for a waiver would be in the best interest of the state, the school districts and Texas students.
"We can't agree with things that we don't have the authority to change," Suzanne Marchman said. "State law puts public education into the hands of the State Board of Education. Some feel that some of the requirements by applying for the waiver for the long run would be more difficult for some school districts."
Critics of No Child Left Behind, including Gov. Rick Perry, think Texas schools are doing far better than the federal standards would imply.
"This is a perfect example of why the federal government shouldn't be trying to dictate a one-size-fits-all education system," said Josh Havens, deputy press secretary for Perry. "These scores don't accurately reflect what our students are accomplishing in Texas."
Others blame the state.
"The real problem is that Gov. Perry has, himself, not been making ‘adequate yearly progress' for our Texas schools," said U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin. "He should have listened to our local educators and long ago have made an appropriate request for federal action on this." Doggett added that plans to change No Child Left Behind have been stymied by House Republicans.
The Texas Association of Business, which closely monitors state education issues, noted that 2012 was the first time more Texas public school students failed the standards than passed them. President Bill Hammond said the results indicate that Texas schools "aren't meeting the demand of preparing graduates for college or careers."
The federal progress standards are based on student participation and performance on state-mandated tests and on graduation and attendance rates. In previous years, that state test was the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, but this spring, most students took a new, more rigorous state test, the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness.
The state had to translate students' performance on the new test to a score on the old TAKS for the federal government, even though passing standards still have not been set for elementary and middle school students on that test, and the state has not issued its own accountability ratings for schools or districts.
Districts or schools that get specific federal funds for low-income students and that miss the standards for two or more years are subject to state sanctions and a school improvement program. Schools that don't get that federal funding for low-income students and miss the standards must revise existing campus improvement plans to address why they missed the standards.
In Central Texas, more local districts have failed to meet the federal standards.
This is the fourth consecutive year the Austin school district failed to meet the federal standards. Round Rock, Leander, Pflugerville, Hays and Georgetown also were among local districts that failed. Even the Dripping Springs school district, which was one of the few area districts that passed last year, failed to meet the standards.
The Lake Travis school district, which also passed last year, had its high school campus fail to meet standards, though the district as a whole passed. Last year, only a handful of area districts met federal standards overall and at every campus.
This year, Eanes and Liberty Hill were among the only districts to achieve both.
"We are obviously disappointed that not all of our campuses met federal standards, but I am proud of the majority of our students who continued to perform well," Round Rock Superintendent Jesús Chávez said. "As is evidenced by the number of campuses and districts which are not meeting federal standards, I believe it is time that the No Child Left Behind Act be re-evaluated."
Forty-eight of 118 schools in the Austin district failed to meet standards.
Because Austin did not meet federal math and reading standards again, the district will now have to put a percentage of its funding for low-income students toward professional development in those subjects, district officials said.

Question:  What steps can Texas schools take to help meet AYP requirements?  Are the standards unreachable and not realistic?  Tell me what you think.

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