The Financial Allocation Study for Texas, or FAST, place TISD in the bottom half of 41 school districts when measuring the relationship between district spending and student achievement.
Texas has more than 1,100 school districts and charter schools, but for the purposes of this study, school districts were grouped based on common cost factors.
Tyler ISD received 2.5 of five stars for having relatively high per-student expenditures and mid-level academic progress when compared to districts with similar wages, enrollment, location and student demographics, according to the FAST website.
The range for these peer districts is wide, with TISD in the same group as Valley View ISD, which has about 4,700 students, and San Antonio ISD, which has more than 54,000.
TISD falls close to the middle of the group, with almost 18,500 students served during the 2010-11 school year.
Tom Currah, senior adviser and data analysis director with the Texas Comptroller's Office, which created the study, said although some of the districts are different in individual categories such as enrollment, all the categories are considered together when creating the groupings.
The Texas Comptroller's office created this system at the direction of the Texas Legislature. Legislators wanted the comptroller to identify school districts and campuses that spent money in ways that contributed to high academic achievement and cost-effective operations, according to the program website.
Unveiled in 2010, the study has been updated annually ever since.
In addition to the star ratings for districts and campuses, the study puts together a wealth of information related to district and campus finances and academic performance.
This includes spending breakdowns, standardized test scores, SAT/ACT scores, and dropout and completion rates.
New information in this year's report includes a district's outstanding debt and annual debt service and college readiness indicators.
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs said educators and the public can use the FAST online tool to compare their districts with similar districts around the state in multiple categories, according to a news release from her office.
This year, TISD's rating is above the two stars it received in 2010 and below the three stars received last year.
“We've shown improvement since 2010,” Mooring said by phone. “But, we're striving to get better in that every year. We're always going to be striving for that five-star (rating).”
Of the 25 TISD schools included in the study, the highest rating received was 3.5 stars.
Three campuses — Douglas, Owens, and Dr. Bryan C. Jack elementary schools — received that rating.
Five schools — Bell, Birdwell, Ramey, Rice and Woods — received three-star ratings.
Thirteen schools received either two-star or 2.5-star ratings.
Jones Elementary received a 1.5 star rating. And three schools —Boulter, Dogan and Peete —received one-star ratings.
The ratings go from one to five stars with half-star increments.
A five-star district has shown significant academic progress at very low spending levels per student.
A one-star district has shown low academic progress at very high spending levels per student, according to the website.
Although the district did not receive the highest rating in this study, it has consistently been recognized for its financial transparency and performance.
TISD repeatedly has been named to the Texas Comptroller Leadership Circle for opening its financial books to the public, providing clear, consistent pictures of spending, and sharing information in a user-friendly format, according to the comptroller's website.
It also has consistently received the state's Superior Achievement rating, the highest possible under the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas.
Mooring said TISD is consistently looking at best practices as it works toward its goals.
“This report is not driving us to do something different,” he said. “It's helping us to focus on things we need to do with best practices to move this district forward.”