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School districts unite in challenge to AYP

By Brandon Evans | Published Saturday, December 1, 2012

While Bridgeport and Decatur remain fierce rivals on the athletic field, the two school districts have become allies in the courtroom.

Bridgeport and Decatur have joined approximately 100 school districts in the state to challenge the constitutionality of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. Alvord and Slidell districts are also plaintiffs in the case.

In early November the Texas Association of Community Schools (TACS) formally filed a case against the Texas Education Agency (TEA) that challenges the agency’s authority to force school districts to comply with the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) ratings issued under NCLB.

“Texas has the most stringent accountability system in the nation,” said Bridgeport Superintendent Eddie Bland. “This is an opportunity to say the federal government has overstepped their bounds … NCLB has run its course.”

Under the NCLB Act, districts must keep increasing the passing rates of students on standardized tests or adequate yearly progress (AYP), until the passing rate becomes 100 percent.

AYP considers reading/language arts, mathematics and either graduation rate for high schools and districts or attendance rate for elementary and middle/junior high schools. If a campus, district or state fails to meet AYP for two consecutive years, it is subject to requirements such as offering supplemental education services, offering school choice and/or taking corrective actions.

A historic number of Texas districts and campuses failed to meet AYP this year. Only 28 percent of districts and 34 percent of campuses met the standards. Every district in Wise County except Chico ISD failed to pass AYP.

“NCLB wants 100 percent passing,” Bland said. “There is no validity to any test that has a 100 percent passing rate … We don’t need a second accountability system when we already have the toughest in the nation … This is a states’ rights issue.”

Ken McCraw, the executive director of TACS, also points to the difficulty Texas schools are already having with implementation of the new STAAR test that replaces the old TAKS system.

“First, we’re in the benchmarking year of a new, much more demanding, I might even say overwhelming, assessment system,” McCraw said. “Second, we didn’t even have enough money for the old system. Third, AYP standards were raised this year more than ever before. And finally, to top it off, re-testing opportunities that have in the past enabled our districts to meet the standards were not available this year.”

The case will be heard before the State Office of Administrative Hearings. If the districts win, it will allow TEA to withdraw from AYP regulations and remove the last nine years of federal ratings in Texas.

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