State statistics released Wednesday show nearly half of Texas' public and charter schools failed to meet federal accountability standards based on the No Child Left Behind Law, a sharp increase from previous years that education officials blame on passing standards that have gotten tougher.
Just 44.2 percent of schools statewide met "adequate yearly progress" standards compared to 47.8 percent, or 4,080 total Texas schools, that fell short of them, according to preliminary figures from the Texas Education Agency. An additional 7.9 percent of schools were not evaluated for a variety of reasons.
When broken down by school district instead of individual campus, the figures are bleaker. Only 339 Texas public and charter school districts — or 27.6 percent — met the standards known as adequate yearly progress or AYP, compared to 876 districts, or 71.4 percent, that did not.
Those tallies were down dramatically from 66 percent of school campuses and 50 percent of districts in Texas that met AYP standards last year. And they represent an especially sharp drop from 2009, when about 81 percent of both campuses and school districts statewide met annual federal progress standards.
According to the Texas Education Agency, a school or district had to have at least 87 percent of its students pass the state reading or English language arts test to meet the passing standards this year, while 83 percent had to pass the state math test. Last year's AYP only required 80 percent passing on state reading or English language tests, and 75 percent on math tests.
Schools that fail to meet federal standards for two or more years and receive Title I funding are subject to sanctions.
Texas has its own accountability system and, up until this year, federal yearly progress standards were measured based on student performance on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills standardized test, as well as factors including attendance and graduation rates. This past school year, however, students statewide took the more rigorous State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR test.
The state is not releasing its own school and district ratings based on STAAR results this year, as it works to revamp its accountability system using the new test. However, the Education Agency translated students' STAAR performances to how they might have done on the previous exam so federal authorities were able to measure 2012's annual progress.
The Obama administration has granted waivers allowing states that seek permission to escape from certain mandates of the 2002 No Child Left Behind Law, which was championed by President George W. Bush. Texas has not sought a waiver citing possible federal strings attached, though it has not ruled out eventually doing so.
The Texas Association of Business noted that 2012 marked the first time more Texas public school students failed the AYP standards than passed them.
"That is certainly disappointing to hear," the group's president, Bill Hammond, said in a statement. "It does, however, show us the importance of keeping a strong accountability system. These results will force schools to take a look at where their weaknesses are and come up with plans to address those weaknesses."
Hammond said the results indicate that Texas schools "aren't meeting the demand of preparing graduates for college or careers."