HISD Test Scores Arrive With a Big But

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The news that Houston ISD's number of exemplary schools dropped from 101 in 2010 to 59 in 2011, according to the Texas Education Agency's figures just released at 1 p.m. today, could only add more fuel to the fire of critics who are certain Superintendent Terry Grier is destroying HISD.

Except that if the now discarded and discredited Texas Projection Measure (a method of giving extra points to schools by predicting that certain kids who failed the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills actually would pass in the next year) was removed from last year's results, and other new "accountability measures" were factored in, according to HISD, then in 2010 there were 46 HISD schools that were really exemplary.

Which would make this year -- at least in the exemplary category -- an improvement. And Terry Grier a hero (or at least not a complete goat)?

Elsewhere in the annual ratings, the number of HISD's academically recognized schools in 2011 was 106 (107 last year with the TPM), and academically acceptable increased to 79 (from 49 with TPM).

The number of academically unacceptable schools soared to 21 from last year's 7 -- but HISD's recalculation of last year's effort says it would have been 23 -- so hey, put another one in the win column.

Some of the schools in the highly financed turnaround project known as Apollo 20 were among the unacceptable: Jones and Kashmere high schools and Attucks and Ryan middle schools. Kashmere, in fact, made the state's list for the third year in a row and Jones for the second consecutive year.

In the upcoming 2011-12 school year, 11 elementaries will be added to the Apollo program: Blackshear, Davila, Frost, Grimes, Highland Heights, Isaacs, Kelso, Robinson, Scarborough, Tinsley and Walnut Bend.

Of these, Blackshear and Frost were judged academically unacceptable this year.

Other HISD schools judged academically unacceptable were Booker T. Washington, Wheatley, Worthing and Yates high schools. Among the middle schools: Woodson, Smith Education Center, Harper Alternative and Texas Connections Academy. And at the elementary level: Bonham, Woodrow Wilson Montessori, E.O. Smith, Gregory-Lincoln, Garcia, Dominion Academy and Kandy (with a K! really?) Stripe Academy. Four of the district's alternative schools were judged academically unacceptable: Pro Vision School, Contemporary Learning Center, Vision Academy and HS Ahead Academy.

In a press release today, HISD pointed out that districts across the state saw a drop in their ratings. Other factors were a 5-point increase in the minimum needed to pass the math and science exams for a school to be rated academically acceptable.

Also, a school has "to have at least 25 percent of all students and 25 percent of all economically disadvantaged students reach the TAKS 'commended' level in order to be rated exemplary, or at least 15 percent for a 'recognized' rating."

Another, much harped upon major factor is that for the first time the scores of special education students are factored in.

Grier issued this statement: "HISD principals and teachers helped students throughout the district make great strides last school year, and we celebrate that today. But we will not be satisfied until all children attending all Houston schools are achieving at the highest levels. It is unacceptable for Houston to have any unacceptable schools. As Houston schools rise to meet our ambitious, but attainable, goal of preparing every child for college and a meaningful career, it's more critical than ever that we follow through on our promise to give every child a great teacher and a school led by a quality principal."

Overall, HISD received an Academically Acceptable rating with 91 percent of its schools avoiding the unacceptable tag.

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