Texas school districts seek to overturn annual NCLB ratings

 
This was probably inevitable: A coalition of nearly 90 Texas school districts is asking state education officials to set aside all of the Adequate Yearly Progress ratings that they have been given under the No Child Left Behind law since the program started a decade ago.
 
According to the Star Telegram, the Austin-based Texas Association of Community Schools organized the case that was just filed against the Texas Education Agency with the State Office of Administrative Hearings. It argues that the federal government doesn’t have the authority to mandate an accountability system for public schools and the education agency shouldn’t have implemented the federally mandated Adequate Yearly Progress school rating system.
 
A news release quoted by the newspaper from the Community Schools group says:
 
The challenge asserts that the ratings constitute an unlawful, costly and destructive federal intrusion into local school operations and that the Texas Education Agency, in its efforts to comply with federal mandates, acted without authority from the Legislature and denied school district leaders their right to due process.
 
 
Under the Adequate Yearly Progress system, schools had to show progress on student standardized test scores in reading/English Language Arts and math each year according to a certain formula.  According to the Tyler Morning Telegraph, 71 percent of Texas’ more than 1,200 school districts missed AYP for 2011-12 — up from 49 percent the year before.
 
“These tests have become just a tool to punish school districts that are underperforming according to their standards,” Ken McCraw, Texas Association of Community Schools executive director, was quoted by the Telegraph as saying.
 
If the organization were to win its case, it would mean that state officials would have to set up a new accountability system for schools and ignore the AYP ratings since they started in 2003.
 
The obvious irony is that No Child Left Behind mandates were instituted under the administration of president George W. Bush, who was the governor of Texas and instituted reforms that were the precursor to NCLB.  Why did Texas school districts wait until now to do this? Because, McCraw said, what had been objectionable before became “intolerable” when so many districts were rated as failing.
 
The Obama administration has given waivers to 32 states and another to the District of Columbia that exempts them from the most onerous mandates of NCLB — including AYP — in return for other reforms desired by the Education Department. Texas had refused to  even apply, though last month indicated it would apply for one though not in the manner prescribed by the Education Department. The chances that it will get approved aren’t high. Even if an application were to be approved, it wouldn’t have any effect on the past  AYP designations, which the new legal case aims to overturn.

 

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss · November 7, 2012