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State Education Boss Scraps Controversial Texas Projection Measure

Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott at an event in February.
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News
Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott at an event in February.

A contentious calculation used by the state to measure academic performance at schools will be abandoned, Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott announced today. The Texas Projection Measure (TPM) counted some students as passing, even if they failed, as long as they were algorithmically predicted to pass in the future. TPM had long drawn the ire of conservative business leaders, minority education activists and progressive policy groups.

In the announcement posted on the Texas Education Agency (TEA) website, Scott said he is abandoning TPM "based on the lack of public support for the continued use of the measure."

Scott also alluded to the Texas House's approval of HB 500 in early April. One provision of that bill bans the TEA from using projection measures as actual representations of student grades. The bill is currently headed to the Senate Education Committee for evaluation.

The education commissioner has defended TPM on numerous accounts. The Dallas Morning News reported on his comments during a State Board of Education meeting in July 2010.

"It is very easy to demagogue. It is very easy for someone to say they gave students credit for failing," [Scott said.]

But Scott always left the door open to revising or eliminating the formula, if it was discovered to be ineffective at what it purported to do: predict student outcomes.

The Texas Projection Measure was adopted in 2009 in response to concerns that the state's academic accountability system was punishing low-performing students whose test scores improved dramatically, but failed to meet a fixed benchmark.

In other words, a student could go from scoring 20 percent on a standardized test to scoring 79 percent, but if they didn't hit, say, an 80 percent benchmark, the school and district received no credit for that student's improvement.

With the implementation of TPM, the number of schools ranked "exemplary" under the state's accountability system skyrocketed.  In 2010, the first year results were released under TPM, 239 schools received the highest rating of "exemplary". But only 72 would have received that rating without TPM.

Opposition to TPM created some strange political alliances. The conservative Texas Association of Business found itself in agreement with the progressive Center for Public Policy Priorities and the League of United Latin American Citizens. At a news conference in 2009, they all claimed that that TPM artificially inflates students' grades.

Nevertheless, Commissioner Scott appears unrepentant in his belief that TPM is an effective measure of student progress. In his statement today, he points out that "in 2010, performance on the TAKS tests improved in every subject for every student group and an overwhelming majority of the class of 2011 passed the exit-level assessments for graduation."

"Unfortunately, this hard work is overshadowed by criticism of the use of the TPM," he said.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.