By Jackie Stone
Killeen Daily Herald
As soon as the Texas Education Agency released its accountability ratings for 2009 at the end of July, two local school districts began the process of appealing their ratings.
Killeen Independent School District was rated academically acceptable overall, but one of its high school campuses fell into the unacceptable range. With an appeal, the district hopes to move that campus to an acceptable rating.
Copperas Cove Independent School District was also rated an academically acceptable district, but Superintendent Rose Cameron hopes an appeal could move the district and its acceptable-rated high school into the recognized range.
The districts should find out the results of their appeals by the end of October.
Both appeals were made because the ratings were given under new TEA measurements that take into account completion rates – based on the number of students who graduated from high school – in addition to academic measures.
TEA spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said the state agency has received 223 appeals this year from districts across the state, more than doubling from just 83 last year.
Stricter measurement of dropout and completion rates was mandated by the federal National Center for Education Statistics and went into effect this year, Culbertson said.
She said many districts appealed because they had students who left the district before graduating. Those were covered under a waiver last year.
"The majority (of the appeals) were because this year we did not have a 'school-leaver' provision to cover the completion rate," Culbertson said.
Normally, she said, most appeals that are granted correct errors on TEA's part rather than data errors in the district. She added that each case is looked at on an individual basis through a long and regimented process.
KISD's appeal to TEA hinges on showing that three students who were reported as non-graduates at Harker Heights High School did finish school.
In a letter explaining why HHHS was rated unacceptable, KISD Superintendent Robert Muller said that under just the academic performance measures, the school would be a recognized campus. The district lost points on the completion standard.
"After that indicator fell short – when we went back and looked at the data – we actually had data that verified that (the three) students were high school completers," said Leslie Gilmore, a KISD spokeswoman.
In his letter to the community, Muller said having two more students listed as completers would move HHHS to an academically acceptable campus.
Copperas Cove ISD
Cameron said Copperas Cove High School's completion rate was hurt by students who left the district for various reasons.
"They look at a student from the time they enter high school until the time they graduate, and only a certain amount of time can go by," she said. "They either have to graduate in four years or return that fifth year."
Students who get a GED instead of graduating, students that go to jail and other students who enter school and then leave soon thereafter or without graduating hurt the rating, Cameron said.
Her appeals this year were focused mainly on students who were displaced because of hurricanes and those who moved and graduated out of state where the district couldn't track them.
"I also asked (TEA) to consider our connection to the military, because our kids don't just leave a Texas school and go back to another Texas school. They leave the state and in some cases go to another country," Cameron said.
Cameron said CCHS academic scores are within the recognized range, and if the school and district should be rated recognized if the appeal is upheld.
Culbertson said there is no way of knowing how many of the appeals will be upheld by TEA, and each will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
"The ratings are not given arbitrarily, so there is a process," Culbertson said. "They're all held to the standard, but at the same time the uniqueness of their situation is evaluated individually."
The appeals process should wrap up in mid to late October.
Contact Jackie Stone at email@example.com or (254) 501-7474.