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Accreditors Alert 10 Texas Districts To Improve

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A new accreditation system in Texas has cited 349 schools for unacceptable performance and alerted 10 school districts that they have two years to improve or face state management.

An unsung part of the school-finance law passed by the legislature in May, the new accreditation system will annually assess both schools and districts based on student-performance measures. (See Education Week, June 9, 1993.)

The system uses such statistics as state assessment scores, attendance rates, and dropout figures to rank both buildings and districts on a four-level scale.

In the rankings released last month, one district was ranked exemplary, 24 reached "recognized'' status, 1,013 got simple accreditation, and 10 were classified as "accredited but warned.''

The largest of the 10 warned districts, which enroll a total of 13,600 students, was Rio Grande City on the Mexican border.

While most other districts received accreditation, state officials noted, 334 of them were issued letters of concern based on unacceptable performance among a single group of students, such as Hispanics or the disadvantaged.

Among individual schools, 22 were awarded exemplary standing, 255 reached the recognized level, 5,558 were found acceptable, and 349 were found unacceptable. Schools were classified as unacceptable when 80 percent of their students failed the state achievement tests.

Among the schools found acceptable, 593 received letters expressing concern about the performance of a particular subgroup of students.

Officials said the new accountability system serves notice to local educators that everyday performance will be valued above impressions made on periodic visits by an accreditation team. Under the new law, the rankings will be compiled each year.

"We are committed to increasing the number of exemplary and recognized districts and campuses while at the same time reducing the number that are low performing,'' Commissioner of Education Lionel R. Meno said in a statement. "We are confident that academic performance will rise for all students and extreme sanctions will not be necessary as we move forward.''--L.H.

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