Dallas ISD Scores With 63 Exemplary Schools. But Completion Rates Take Their Toll.

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We warned you in early June, when the Dallas Independent School District crunched some TAKS test scores and released its list of exemplary and recognized schools well ahead of the Texas Education Agency's official date of, well, today: Those numbers were very preliminary. As TEA spokesperson DeEtta Culbertson reminded in late May, that wasn't even raw data -- and the agency hadn't even factored in dropout and completion rates that go toward the final ratings. DISD also said as much and warned the preliminary rankings could take a hit based upon those final stats.

Based on today's Official Release, there is plenty of good news for the district -- top o' the list, Kimball, Pinkston, Roosevelt and Seagoville high schools are now considered academically acceptable after years wandering the at-risk wasteland. "Those four are off the list, and that's very good news," says DISD spokesman Jon Dahlander. And there are 63 exemplary campuses, up from last year's 46 -- and four times the number in 2007 --  with 62 considered recognized. And the number of schools considered academically unacceptable dropped from 21 in '09's report to 15 this year.

But that still has to be disappointing for the district, which in June predicted there would be but seven schools on the AU list -- with nary a high school amongst them. The TEA says otherwise: Bryan Adams, Hillcrest, A. Maceo Smith, Samuell, Carter and North Dallas all are considered academically unacceptable. The reason: completion rates.

"Completion rate is the No. 1 reason across the state this year for academically unacceptable campuses, and the dropout rate is the second," Culbertson tells Unfair Park.

"That's been the issue for the last couple of years," Dahlander tells Unfair Park. "Eight of the 15 considered unacceptable are there because of completion rate -- and when you have a student population that can be transient, and some days a child may not choose to show up, you have to track them down, and if you can't that counts against you."

Matter of fact, says Dahlander, the dropout and completion rates took a significant toll even on schools considered acceptable: Thomas Jefferson and Skyline would have been recognized, he says, were it not for the completion rates. "It pulls them down to acceptable, and it's disappointing, of course."

The district's official release, with comments from Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, follows.
TEXAS EDUCATION AGENCY: DALLAS ISD HAS QUADRUPLED NUMBER OF EXEMPLARY SCHOOLS SINCE 2007

Number of Dallas Schools Receiving Top Rating Has Gone from 14 to 63 in 4 Years; Number of Academically Unacceptable Campuses Drops

DALLAS- The Dallas Independent School District has more than quadrupled the number of schools receiving the state's top ranking of Exemplary during the last four years, according to ratings released by the Texas Education Agency today.

Sixty-three Dallas ISD schools are now rated exemplary, up from 14 in 2007. There were 46 schools rated exemplary in Dallas ISD last year.

"There are likely many principals, teachers, staff, parents and students who are very proud about their school's success today," said Dallas ISD Superintendent of Schools Michael Hinojosa. "This is yet another positive step forward in our journey to prepare all students of every background to be ready for college and the workforce."

The number of campuses rated Recognized fell from 82 to 62, in large part because of the gain in schools that received the Exemplary rating and because the standard to become Recognized was increased from 75% of students passing to 80%. The total number of Dallas ISD campuses to receive the state's top two ratings is 125, comprising 54 percent of district schools. The ratings are based in large part on the 2010 administration of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.

"Dallas ISD students saw gains in most subjects on this year's TAKS test," said Hinojosa. "We still recognize that TAKS represents the floor of academic achievement and not the ceiling, so it would be entirely inappropriate to declare victory. Still, the improvement is encouraging and will give school staff throughout the district a roadmap for continued growth."

The number of academically unacceptable campuses dropped from 21 to 15 this year, 8 of which were solely based on their completion or dropout rate. Four high schools that had received the state's unacceptable rating for four consecutive years--Kimball, Pinkston, Roosevelt and Seagoville--all earned the state's Acceptable rating this year, in large part because of double-digit gains in both science and mathematics, which was seen in many high schools throughout the district. In addition to these 4 schools, another 11 schools are no longer rated Academically Unacceptable.

"Staff members at these schools have worked very hard to shed the unacceptable rating and their work has been rewarded," said Hinojosa. "There are still plans to move forward with creating Satellite Magnets at the four high school campuses, which we think will only strengthen these schools. Again, there is still work to be done but the progress is significant for each of these campuses."

Dr. Hinojosa said he was especially pleased to see so many comprehensive secondary schools receive the state's top ratings. E.D. Walker Middle School and W.E. Greiner (which has a limited number of Exploratory Arts Academy students) earned the state's Exemplary rating. W.T. White High School, W. H. Gaston, Thomas C. Marsh, L. V. Stockard, Raul Quintanilla Sr., and Hector P. Garcia Middle Schools earned the state's Recognized rating.

Once again this year, the Texas Projection Model (TPM) was used in the accountability rating as a result of recent legislation to serve as an indicator of how students' performance at the end of a school year positions a student to meet the standard in future grades. TEA has followed the national trend that provides a method for measuring student improvement in the federal accountability system.

"While Dallas had a number of schools with ratings that were enhanced by TPM, it should not minimize the fact that progress is being made on those campuses," said Hinojosa. "These schools deserve whatever rating they received and the information provided to school districts as a result will be helpful to educators in continuing to strengthen academic programs in schools throughout the state."
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