6 Tyler schools needing progress: Campuses land on Focus Schools list, will receive funds to improve

Published on Friday, 13 December 2013 21:17 - Written by By Emily Guevara eguevara@tylerpaper.com

 Six Tyler ISD campuses were identified as needing academic improvement, according to lists released by the Texas Education Agency on Friday.

Boulter and Dogan middle schools, along with Douglas, Jones, Orr and Peete elementary schools were named Focus Schools as part of a state-developed plan that essentially replaces the federal accountability system.

Almost 600 campuses statewide received the same designation as the Tyler schools.

Making that list meant a school was among 10 percent of Title I campuses — schools that receive federal funding for high populations of low-income students — in which student demographic groups missed performance, participation or graduation-rate targets by the largest margins.

The performance and participation targets were measured on standardized test performance.

And these student groups include African-American, White, Hispanic, English Language Learners, Special Education, Economically Disadvantaged and All Students. The groups have to meet a minimize size requirement to be counted.

Focus Schools, including the six in Tyler, will each receive $20,000 in additional federal funding to begin identifying instructional interventions, according to a Texas Education Agency news release.

These interventions will become part of the campus’ improvement plan and need to be fully implemented by the 2014-15 school year, according to the news release.

In addition to the Focus Schools, the state identified almost 300 campuses as Priority Schools.

These are the lowest 5 percent of Title I campuses based on reading and math performance and graduation rates lower than 60 percent. No Tyler ISD campuses were on this list.

TISD spokeswoman Dawn Parnell said the district is pleased none of its campuses were on the Priority list.

“Several of the schools on the Focus list have improvement plans in place, and we will work with the remaining schools to implement improvement plans,” she said in an emailed statement.

The identification of Focus and Priority schools is part of the state-developed plan that is a substitute for the requirements of federal education law.

In previous years, schools either met or missed Adequate Yearly Progress under the federal accountability system.

However, because of changing requirements in the system, “the U.S. Department of Education invited each state educational agency to request flexibility regarding specific requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001,” according to the TEA website.

To gain that flexibility states had to provide rigorous and comprehensive plans designed to improve educational outcomes for all students, close the achievement gaps between different student demographic groups, and improve instructional quality, among other goals.

The U.S. Department of Education approved Texas’ request in September.

Now, instead of federal designations for all Texas schools, only 15 percent of Title I schools are identified as Priority or Focus Schools, according to the TEA.

Those schools must implement steps outlined by the U.S. Department of Education.

To move out of Priority or Focus status, a school must achieve significant progress for two years in a row after the interventions and no longer meet the criteria for identification in either category, according to the TEA