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Area schools pass state ratings for second consecutive year

Every campus in Denton ISD and other area school districts met state accountability standards this year, according to data released Tuesday from the Texas Education Agency.

This is the second year in a row that all local comprehensive schools passed all state requirements in four categories: student achievement, student progress, closing performance gaps and postsecondary readiness. Many of the factors are based on standardized test scores, which took a dip for most school districts across Texas.

Even with the slump in scores, more schools passed accountability standards this year. Statewide results show 44 districts and 371 schools failed the standards, down from 57 districts and 445 schools in 2016.

Several area schools also received distinctions for outstanding achievement across the four categories. 

Out of the 34 campuses that earned distinctions, half were for high science test scores and 16 performed well in the student progress category. Pilot Point ISD was the only district in the area to receive a distinction, which rewarded its postsecondary readiness.

School ratings will look different next year as TEA moves from its pass/fail system to an "A-F" grading system. Districts will see their letter grades starting next August while individual schools will wait until 2019 for their grades.

Legislators came up with the "A-F" system in 2015 as a way to hold school districts more accountable and provide parents with more details about what success looks like at their child's school.

Most school districts oppose the system, saying it is unfair to low-income schools because high-quality teachers might not want to work at failing campuses.

"My biggest fear with any A-F system is that it reverts to teaching to the test," Denton ISD Superintendent Jamie Wilson said in January. "That is not what we want. That's not what our parents want and that's not what our community wants."

TEA released sample grades in January to show districts what ratings would look like under the new system. Denton County schools saw mixed results and Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said the system was a "work in progress."

Legislators came back to tweak the system over the summer with the passage of House Bill 22. Under the new law, schools will receive letter grades in three categories: student achievement, student progress, and closing the gaps between low- and high-performing students.

Elementary and middle schools will be graded in those categories based on state test scores. High schools will include graduations rates and advances courses in addition to test scores. Districts that receive high marks can petition the commissioner to build their own local accountability system.

CAITLYN JONES can be reached at 940-566-6862.