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Most Central Texas School Districts Fail Federal Standards

Nathan Bernier/KUT News

A majority of Central Texas school districts did not meet federal standards this year under the No Child Left Behind law. It’s largely the outcome of tougher passing standards. But the results have some education officials questioning the validity of the testing system.

Some of the Central Texas school districts that failed to meet NCLB’s Adequate Yearly Progress standards included Austin, Round Rock, Pflugerville, Leander, Del Valle, Manor, Georgetown, Dripping SpringsHays and San Marcos. In Central Texas, the few school districts that did meet AYP were located in higher income areas such the Eanes, Lago Visa and Lake Travis. But even in Lake Travis, the high school failed to meet AYP.  

Across the state, 48 percent of districts fell short of AYP. The passing standards get tougher every year, and in 2012, schools basically had to be functioning at a B plus level to pass, regardless of the school’s socioeconomic level or per-student funding. The passing standard increased form 80 to 87 percent in reading and 75 to 83 percent in math. 

When you look only at Title I schools in Texas - those with low income students - more than four out of five campuses failed to pass.

“When you get to 84 percent of the title one schools in the state failing to meet the standard, it does call into question how meaningful it is,” says Bill Caritj, AISD’s chief performance officer.

Even U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan last year called for an overhaul of No Child Left Behind. The federal government and offered waivers to states to be exempted from AYP.

But Debbie Ratcliff at the Texas Education Agency says the state is concerned about the conditions attached to a waiver, like having to adopt either federal curriculum or college readiness standards.

“We haven’t said no, it’s still under advisement,” Ratcliff said. “But the higher standards get, I think in many ways the less useful these ratings are for everyone, because if almost everyone is failing, there’s really no differentiation there.”

But advocates of the academic accountability system warn against weakening it simply because education officials don’t like the results it produces.

“These results will force schools to take a look at where there weaknesses are and come up with plans to address those weaknesses,” Texas Association of Business president Bill Hammond said in a press release. “I think that will improve education in the long run. Without a strong accountability system that kind of improvement would never happen.”

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 Twitter @KUTnathan.