By CHERIL VERNON
A handful of schools in Anderson, Houston and Leon counties — including Palestine Junior High School — are among the nearly 900 schools across Texas that were designated as under-performing campuses in a new list released by the Texas Education Agency on Thursday.
Schools making the list locally included Palestine Junior High School, Grapeland High School, Oakwood High School and Crockett Independent School District's elementary, junior high and high school campuses. In total, there were 66 schools in East Texas named on the list.
This list, effective for the 2014-2015 school year, identifies campuses with passing rates on TAKS/STAAR that are less than or equal to 50 percent in any two of the preceding three years or were rated Academically Unacceptable in 2011 or rated Improvement Required in 2013 under the new state accountability system. No state accountability ratings were issued in 2012.
Despite the new report, most of the local campuses on the list that were rated Academically Unacceptable in 2011 — which placed the schools on this report — have already improved their campus, receiving “Met Standard” ratings from the 2012-13 Texas Academic Performance Report released in late 2013. These schools even received distinction designations for their progress.
PJHS — as well of all of Palestine Independent School District as a whole — received the “Met Standard” rating on the 2012-13 Texas Academic Performance Report for the STAAR Test. PJHS also received an Academic Achievement in Reading/English Language Arts and an Academic Achievement in Top 25 Percent Student Progress in the most recent ratings report.
“It's a misleading report because every campus that we have in our district — including Palestine Junior High School — met standards for this current school year,” PISD Superintendent Jason Marshall told the Herald-Press Friday. “The reason the junior high campus was on the list was because of scores from 2011 and those have already been improved. The campus was actually commended by the State of Texas for doing so well on the required improvements that were necessary.”
Marshall said the school district will continue to provide a “strong basic education and individualized instruction for students who have specific academic needs.”
Because of the confusion, Palestine ISD officials placed a link to the official TEA accountability documents showing that PISD met standards on the 2013 STAAR tests on the school district website's front page, www.palestineschools.org.
“The junior high not only met the standard, but they received a second positive mark for meeting the required improvement,” Marshall said.
Grapeland High School also not only met the 2012-13 Texas Academic Performance Report with a “Met Standard” rating, but received the following distinction: Academic Achievement in Top 25 Percent Student Progress.
Oakwood High School also met the 2012-13 Texas Academic Performance Report with a “Met Standard” rating and received a distinction award: Academic Achievement in Reading.
Crockett ISD met standards on both the high school and junior high school campus on the 2012-13 Texas Academic Performance Report — both campuses that had received Academically Unacceptable in 2011. Crockett Elementary School received an Improvement Required rating for 2013, because the STAAR/TAKS passing rate in writing was 50 percent or below for the tested grades at the campus.
The report relates to the Public Education Grant (PEG) program, created by the Texas Legislature in 1995. The PEG program permits parents whose children attend schools on the PEG list to request that their children transfer to schools in other districts.
By Feb. 1, districts must notify each parent of a student in the district assigned to attend a school on the PEG list. Based on the February list, parents may request a transfer for the following school year (2014-15 school year).
Under the PEG interdistrict transfer provision, a parent of a student enrolled in any of the campuses listed may make an application to attend a campus in any other school district for the 2014-15 school year. A school district chosen by a student’s parent under this statute is entitled to accept or reject the application for the student to attend school in that district but may not use criteria that discriminate on the basis of a student’s race, ethnicity, academic achievement, athletic abilities, language proficiency, sex or socioeconomic status, according to the TEA website.
District officials who believe extenuating circumstances exist that invalidate the listing of one of its campuses on the list, may write a letter to TEA addressing the concerns and requesting an exception to the PEG requirements, according to TEA's website.
Marshall said Palestine ISD would be filing paperwork with TEA to request the exception because Palestine Junior High School's accountability rating is now at an acceptable level.