NEW: Houston school district fails to meet state standards

Houston Superintendent Dr. Dan Vandiver says that state test scores released Friday can be misleading.

The Houston R-I School District failed to meet minimum requirements in three areas – communication arts, mathematics and graduation rate – and was given “school improvement” status.

Vandiver points out that of the 2,203 schools statewide, only 900 – about 41 percent – met all benchmarks. He also said the scores are preliminary. An error generated by a new reporting system showed Houston’s graduation rate below 30 percent. That mistake is already being corrected.

“The difference between the state and federal accountability system is huge,” Vandiver said. “We’re one of more than half the school in the state that are in improvement, but at the same time we’ve been accredited with distinction for six years in a row.”

About 75 percent of the state’s 553 districts had at least one school that fell short of expectations.

Houston’s elementary and middle schools met all marks, as did the Plato School District, Success, Licking Elementary, Raymondville and Summersville Elementary. Houston High School met the attendance requirement.

State law requires that all students be tested in math and communications arts each year in grades 3-8 and once in high school. The state uses those scores to track the academic progress of districts, schools and specific student subgroups.

Vandiver said Houston scored low in subgroups.

“Our school is doing good things,” he said. “We’re going to keep trying to do better and try to come out of improvement, but it gets more and more difficult every year.”

Any schools that fall short in at least one area must create a plan for improvement. Houston High School was placed in “school improvement” status, meaning it must take specific steps, prescribed by law, to show progress quickly. It will not lose federal money because it is not a Title I school.

Vandiver said the district is already taking steps to improve its scores. Letters will be mailed to parents to explain the situation, and a plan will be devised to address areas of weakness.

“I think Houston has been and will continue to do a good job educating our students. Scores have gone up from last year, but the standard goes up every year,” Vandiver said. “Sixty percent of the schools in the state are in the same boat or worse than us.”

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