School districts across the state, understandably disgruntled by excessive demands made upon their educational system by Annual Yearly Progress, or AYP, ratings, have joined forces to initiate legal proceedings with the intentions of overturning what many deem to be extreme requirements placed upon them since the implementation of the ratings system in 2003.
Foremost in educational leaders’ complaints is what they see as an unlawful and costly intrusion by the federal government into daily school operations.
According to the U.S. Department of Education’s website, Ed.gov, “Education is primarily a state and local responsibility in the United States. It is states and communities, as well as public and private organizations of all kinds, that establish schools and colleges, develop curricula, and determine requirements for enrollment and graduation.”
But Texas district leaders assert the federal government is nudging past those boundaries, adopting guidelines that have been embraced and fostered through the state’s education system by the Texas Education Agency, or TEA.
The goal of the multi-district lawsuit, organized by the Texas Association of Community Schools, or TACS, is to have a retraction of previous strictures levied against school districts, thereby burdening them with onerous remedies to address what the TEA has decided necessary to make a school district viable as an educational entity.
Improvement of said entity is not what is at issue. The bone of contention has to do with the rising annual ante that districts must meet in order to remain in compliance with AYP. And penalties for not meeting those regulations can be seen as excessive.
TACS Executive Director Ken McCraw complained the federal rating system supported by the TEA has been objectionable from the beginning, with the newly implemented state testing, State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, making the ratings exceptionally intolerable.
“First, we’re in the benchmarking year of a new, much more demanding - I might say overwhelming?assessment system,” McCraw said in his release made last Thursday. “Second, we didn’t even have enough money for the old system. Third, AYP standards were raised this year more than ever before.”
There is no question among educators the new assessment replacing the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, or TAKS, is a daunting task to address. But further muddying the waters is the apples and oranges approach to the AYP that leaves teachers and administrators scratching their heads in confusion.
In the petition for review of AYP guidelines submitted by attorney James C. Thompson on behalf of the school district complainants, there is a call for a reevaluation of standards which are in accordance with the TAKS test, but not with the newly implemented STAAR test.
“This AYP suit is an effort by over 100 school districts, including SISD, to prevent Texas school districts from having to continue to meet a set of unrealistic federal standards that are no longer in sync with our state's new accountability system,” Stephenville ISD Superintendent Dr. Darrell Floyd said.
TACS’s McCraw admitted his regrets in taking the steps against TEA, but is adamant the move is a compulsory one.
“Our schools want to focus on educating kids,” he stated in the TACS press release. “But I’m confident this is not what the Texas Legislature intended. We’ve got to stand up for ourselves until our (state) representatives can address the situation.”
Although SISD is a member of the complaining parties, the district has maintained a Recognized Accreditation.
“We are proud to be a part of this AYP petition, or suit,” Floyd said. “Hopefully, the effort will be successful in righting a system that is completely broken.”