Depending on the day last month, a school in Texas might have been labeled a failure and then recognized as one of the best schools in the state.
Others were deemed to be just fine one day—and then declared “academically unacceptable” the next day.
The contradictions came about when state officials released results showing whether schools had made adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act one day and scores from the state’s accountability system the next.
“People are trying to sort out the differences between the two systems,” said Suzanne Marchman, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency. “Many people see the two systems as one.”
But the state and federal systems take very different approaches to evaluating schools, she said.
For instance, the federal ayp approach limits the use of test scores of students who take alternate assessments because of their disabilities. Only 1 percent of such students can be considered proficient under federal rules.
The state, on the other hand, requires school officials to give alternate assessments to large percentages of such students.
That difference puts some schools in a bind.
For example, two high schools in the 23,400-student McAllen Independent School District made the state’s list of “recognized” schools—just one notch below the state’s highest rating, which is “exemplary.”
But the same two schools are in need of improvement according to the analysis required for complying with the federal law.
The McAllen district operates a regional program for deaf children, not all of whom take the state tests. The unfavorable federal designation means those schools may have to allow students to transfer to schools that score better on the ayp measure.
Two other schools in the state that are recognized under the state method failed to pass the federal accountability standards, Ms. Marchman added.
Statewide, another 152 schools considered “academically acceptable” under the state process failed to make ayp under the federal standards.
“It’s very hard [to accept] to be academically acceptable or better under the state method, yet in the eyes of the [federal] government need improvement to the degree that you would need to allow students to transfer out of your school,” Ms. Marchman said.