AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas' new education commissioner said Thursday that he is considering a new system for rating school success and he thinks it should take into account how well districts are closing the achievement gap between Anglo and minority students.
Michael Williams made his first appearance before the State Board of Education since Gov. Rick Perry appointed him to the job in August. He said he plans to change how schools are rated by March 2013.
Presently, schools and districts are rated and ranked according to student performance on state-mandated standardized tests. School officials complain it's an all-or-nothing program based on 30 different tests. If schools fail in one area, they are labeled "academically unacceptable."
Williams said he is considering a system that would establish a rating index with four indicators: student progress, student achievement, student post-graduation preparedness and progress in closing the gap for minority and economically disadvantaged students.
"In a state that is 60 percent economically disadvantaged and 60 percent black and brown, we've got to be concerned about closing that racial achievement gap because indeed our demographics are changing," Williams told the board. He said in calculating the index, he is inclined to give more weight to how well schools improve student performance than the other three indicators.
According to the latest figures available from the Texas Education Agency, 92 percent of white students graduated on time in 2011, compared to 82 percent of Hispanics and 81 percent of African-Americans. Poverty played a role in those results, as only 84 percent of economically disadvantaged children graduated.
Every year, the proportion of minority and economically disadvantaged students increases, and schools say these students require more intensive instruction at a time when the state has cut per-student funding. Meanwhile, lawmakers have required tougher tests for graduation.
Williams said he is confident Texas schools can meet the growing challenge and better accountability should encourage them to improve.