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Some children left behind


Nearly half the public schools across Texas failed to meet tougher federal academic standards this year, according to preliminary data released Wednesday.

The failures spiked sharply from last year, when a quarter of the state’s schools missed the mark.

Nearly all the districts in the Houston area earned failing grades under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, prompting increased calls from educators to change the law.

Those that fell short include the largest in the area: Alief, Aldine, Clear Creek, Conroe, Cypress-Fairbanks, Houston, Humble, Fort Bend, Katy, Klein, Spring and Spring Branch.

The local districts that met the standard – called “adequate yearly progress,” or AYP – include Friendswood, Lamar Consolidated, Sheldon, Tomball and Waller.

Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency, urged parents not to panic.

“Parents need to think about all the other information they know about their schools when they judge the quality of them,” she said. “This year to meet AYP schools had to be performing at the equivalent of about a B-plus level, and that’s a long way from failing.”

In one sense, this doesn’t mean much of anything, since Congressional dysfunction has prevented the passage of needed updates to the original law. In another sense, this is a glimpse of what’s about to happen as the state’s tougher accountability measures kick in. I picked a great time to have school-age kids, didn’t I? The Trib has more, and a statement from the Texas AFT is beneath the fold.

Statement of Linda Bridges, president of Texas AFT,
on NCLB Adequate Yearly Progress Report:

“The report that just 28 percent of Texas school districts and 44 percent of Texas campuses met the ‘adequate yearly progress’ requirement this year under the No Child Left Behind Act tells you more about the planned failure built into NCLB than it does about Texas school performance.

“NCLB decrees the impossible—that 100 percent of students tested must pass state achievement tests by 2014, or else their districts and schools will be penalized for failing to make ‘adequate yearly progress’ (AYP). As the 2014 deadline nears and the required passing percentage rises toward this unattainable standard, an ever-growing number of districts and campuses, including many making good progress, can be expected to fall short—as today’s report illustrates.

“In fact, by more trustworthy measures such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Texas students and their schools have been doing far better than the AYP yardstick implies—even though more than 800,000 additional high-need, economically disadvantaged students have enrolled in Texas public schools since NCLB took effect.

“To the extent that this year’s AYP numbers say anything real about school performance, we also would note that a decline in performance as measured by AYP was baked into the current state budget. The budget bill for 2012-2013 slashed $5.4 billion from school funding, more than $500 a year per pupil, even as federal and state performance requirements continued to rise rapidly. The official performance targets written into the state budget projected that the percentage of campuses failing to meet AYP standards would drop from 66 percent in 2011 to 61 percent by 2013—thus deliberately aiming for what we have called ‘failure by design.’

“Hence the only news in today’s AYP report is that the decline in the percentage of campuses meeting AYP has been even faster and steeper than projected. In other words, the policy of ‘failure by design’ is working even better than state budget writers foresaw. Unfortunately, the confluence of foolish federal standards and disastrous state budget cuts will have real consequences for schools deemed deficient, including draconian measures called for by NCLB such as wholesale replacement of a school’s staff.

“It is to be hoped that the folly of pinning a ‘failing’ label on many schools that may actually be making real progress will speed the long-pending overhaul of the No Child Left Behind Act.”

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  1. Gary says:

    Public education has been under systematic attack for the last 30 years by radical right forces antithetical to anything that promotes the common good or general welfare. Sadly, they have found too many allies on the left that believe that any underperformance by poor or minority students must be the results of incompetence or bias on the part of teachers; and any charlatan who comes along promising pie in the sky miracles gets a chance to muddy the waters still further. It is as if the health professions were being destroyed by those who promise that, if only they were in charge, death would be a thing of the past. Then you get the for-profit testing industry gets a lot of lobbyist money in the mix.

    The saddest part is that we do know what works. Finland revolutionized their educational results a few years ago, rising to the top internationally. It involved a lot of money spent on teacher training and mentorship, free planning time and smaller classes. Neither tests nor miraculous new methods were involved, just lots of professionalism, hands-on experience and hard work.

  2. Ross says:

    Gary, was the problem in Finland teachers or parents? I would argue that a huge part of the problem here is parents who don’t care. The same parents that feed their kids crappy food, smoke dope in front of them, and never encourage them to read or actually go to school. the best teacher in the world can’t overcome those obstacles. Toss in credentialism run rampant, stupid ideas on teaching (from all sides), and it’s a wonder any of the kids ever learn anything.

  3. joshua bullard says:

    the truth is ross and gary are half right and half wrong-we have to pay our teachers a respectable wage-and we must give our teachers benifits as well,but we cannot hinder our teachers with an over abundance of testing when they need to be focused on teaching the kids.

    we have gotten sooo involved in testing that the boat has floated miles away from teaching and that needs to stop.

    the real joshua ben bullard.2012.