By Wendy Gragg
Killeen Daily Herald
State accountability ratings for Killeen and Copperas Cove school districts slid this year, but district administrators are celebrating anyway.
Both districts received a rating of Academically Acceptable this year, down from last years label of Recognized. Neighboring school districts Salado, Lampasas and Florence also experienced the same slide.
The 2005 accountability ratings, earned by 1,200 school districts and charter operators and about 7,900 campuses across the state, were released Monday afternoon by the Texas Education Agency. The ratings are based mostly on a combination of Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills scores, high school completion rates and middle school dropout rates.
Killeen and Copperas Cove followed the trend of school districts across the state with their ratings decline.
TEA reported that the percentage of Academically Acceptable and Academically Unacceptable districts and campuses grew in 2005, while far fewer reached the top rungs of Exemplary and Recognized. The majority of Texas districts, 852, and regular schools, 4,495, joined KISD and CCISD under the umbrella of acceptable this year. Only nine regular school districts achieved Exemplary status.
Commissioner of Educa-tion Shirley Neeley cited several contributing factors for the increase in unacceptable ratings, including tougher TAKS standards, a new test for special education students and stricter dropout and completion rate standards. Performance on math and science TAKS tests were also listed as causes for the lower ratings.
Though local school districts took a hit to their labeling, administrators say that the numbers tell a different story. The 2005 TAKS passing standard was much higher than the year before, administrators said, creating a serious barrier to achieving the higher ratings.
By using last years standards to compare the 2004 and 2005 TAKS test scores, district officials say there is plenty of reason to celebrate.
Its always disappointing when the ratings drop, but if you look at what we accomplished, that disappointment goes away, said Dr. Rose Cameron, deputy superintendent of CCISD.
Cameron said, with very few exceptions, CCISD student test scores increased in almost every area. Two CCISD schools lost their Exemplary rating, while J.L. Williams Elementary School held onto its title. No CCISD schools received an unacceptable rating.
Even though we werent rated Recognized, I think we should be recognized for the work weve accomplished, Cameron said about the districts performance. Our teachers, students all need to be commended.
Using last years standards, in order to compare apples with apples, KISD administrators were also happy to see significant gains.
We improved tremendously and thats the story well be telling, said Dr. Susan Holley, KISD assistant superintendent for education services.
Holley said it was the math and science performance of four student subgroups that held the district back from reclaiming the Recognized title.
We were very close, but not close enough, she said.
Two KISD schools, Smith Middle School and Fairway Middle School, received Academically Unacceptable ratings this year, as opposed to none in the district last year. Holley said those lowest ratings werent based on academics, but rather the dropout rate. She said transfer students were mistakenly miscoded, giving the impression that those students had dropped out.
Were appealing those two, Holley said. We knew ahead of time it was likely.
This is Smiths second incident with the same circumstance. Previous student miscodings at Smith and Liberty Hill Middle caused the district to be stripped of its Recognized rating.
KISDs 2005 TAKS increases encourage Holley to believe the Recognized rating could easily be recaptured by the district.
Were working hard and were going to keep on, Holley said. Well get it back. We will.
Contact Wendy Gragg at firstname.lastname@example.org