School Accountability

Texas has schools that rate well on the state accountability rating but fail the federal rating system under the No Child Left Behind Act. The head of the Texas Education Agency says the two systems are in conflict. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports

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The state has an accountability system that rates schools in categories including exemplary, recognized or acceptable. The federal No Child Left Behind Act rates schools as either making or not making 'adequate yearly progress' referred to as AYP. TEA Commissioner Shirley Neeley says there's a disconnect between the two.

"The frustration is that we're doing the right thing and we have high standards. I'm probably going to be quoted, but I've said it from the rafters, you know, we really don't need AYP in Texas. We have a very good state accountability system. We're not leaving any child behind."

Neeley says Texas has been recognized as the third best accountability system in the nation. She says the federal and state systems are in direct conflict, especially when it comes to special needs students. HISD missed adequate yearly progress because of the number of special needs students who took an alternate test. HISD Superintendent Abe Saavedra ...

"The federal accountability system is out of synch with the state accountability system. It makes absolutely no sense. When a state like Texas has such a quality accountability system, we need for the federal government to give us the opportunity to use the state accountability system alone."

One of the challenges of the past year was enrolling thousands of Katrina evacuees in schools. The TEA commissioner estimates that statewide about 31,000 evacuees are enrolled this year in schools. About 20,000 of those are in the Houston area. Saavedra says schools received waivers on accountability standards for how Katrina students performed on the test, but the feds turned down a waiver request related to participation. He says some schools did not make adequate yearly progress despite participation rates higher than 90 percent. The required participation rate is 95 percent. Commissioner Neeley says despite the issues schools are dealing with, the students will be better off.

"My promise to the parents of Louisiana and to Picard, my counterpart, I'll tell you one thing Cecil, the New Orleans children that come back to Louisiana one of these days whether they've been here a month, two months or a year, I guarantee you they're going to return stronger academically, that is my promise to you. We are going to benchmark them, we are doing, and it's the people in this room doing that."

Looking forward Neeley identified two challenges for the upcoming year, one being to continue tacking drop-out rates. She also challenged teachers and superintendents to increase pride in the profession. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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