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More schools land on state's worst-performing list
By Ericka Mellon
As students continue to struggle with tougher state exams, the number of public schools that landed on Texas' worst-performing list rose this year.
Houston ISD, the state's largest school system, has the most schools on the list - 86, or about 30 percent of the district's campuses.
"We're not going to be happy or satisfied as long as there's one HISD school on that list," Houston Independent School District Superintendent Terry Grier said Friday.
The state allows students from the targeted schools to try to transfer to another campus or district next school year, but few typically take advantage of the option. The law doesn't require free transportation - a potential hurdle for parents - and schools can refuse transfers for reasons such as overcrowding.
Across Texas, 1,199 campuses landed on the state's so-called Public Education Grant list, up from 892 last year. Some of the schools met the state's standards for 2014, but they remain on the list due to poor performance the prior year.
In HISD, for example, 18 of the 86 listed schools met the standards this year.
The list goes beyond the state's annual accountability ratings. Schools land on the list if they earned an "improvement required" rating in 2013 or 2014. They also get tagged for low student test scores - specifically if passing rates are 50 percent or lower in any of the tested subjects.
Among the area's largest districts, the list includes 24 schools in Aldine; eight in Pasadena; seven in Alief; three each in Fort Bend and Conroe; two in Klein, one in Cypress-Fairbanks; and none in Clear Creek and Katy.
Half of Galveston ISD's 12 campuses made the list.
Charter schools are not included in the analysis.
The Texas Education Agency typically evaluates three years of ratings but it didn't issue them in 2012 because the state moved to more challenging standardized exams, the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness.
In HISD, 13 of the 20 schools in Grier's signature reform effort called Apollo made the state's list. Grier said the program's small group tutoring in math was effective - few of the Apollo schools were on the list because of math - and he reiterated concerns with the stagnant reading performance.
HISD launched a new districtwide literacy program this year, focused on ensuring students are reading books at the right difficulty level for their skills. In addition, more than two dozen schools are taking part in another reform effort that emphasizes leadership strategies for staff and data-driven teaching.
"It's more of a management approach to help principals really focus on how they're spending their time," Grier said of the initiative, which is based on the book "Leveraged Leadership" by charter school leader Paul Bambrick-Santoyo.