E. Texas ISDs join lawsuit against TEA to overturn AYP ratings

E. Texas ISDs join lawsuit against TEA to overturn AYP ratings

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - A pending lawsuit against the Texas Education Agency that hopes to overturn the AYP accountability ratings for the past nine years includes the Diboll, Etoile, Hudson, Huntington, and Trinity school districts.

"Our goal is to have the AVP reverted back to last year's rating," Dave Plymale, the superintendent of Trinity ISD, said. "The problem is that the state and federal accountability systems aren't aligned, and they need to be."

Plymale said for school districts to achieve a favorable AYP rating next year, 92 to 93 percent of their students will have to pass the state-mandated State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) tests in the next school year.

Hudson ISD Superintendent, Mary Ann Whiteker said that Hudson ISD joined the lawsuit because the current AYP standards are just impossible to meet.

Whiteker said, "It's time to stand up and voice your opposition for something that's wrong. And this is wrong."

The statewide coalition of schools that are challenging the AYP ratings includes 86 other Texas school districts. According to a press release from the Texas Association of Community Schools, the case will be heard by the State Office of Administrative Hearings.

"The challenge asserts that the ratings constitute an unlawful, costly and destructive federal intrusion into local school operations and that the (TEA), in its efforts to comply with federal mandates, acted without authority from the legislature and denied school district leaders their right to due process," the press release stated.

If the lawsuit is successful, the TEA will be forced to "withdraw it AYP regulations, wipe the federal ratings slate clean for the past nine years, and start AYP implementation over."

Ken McCraw, the executive director of TACS, said that while the federal rating system has caused problems for school districts since its inception, the circumstances this year made it even more difficult to stomach.

"First, we're in the benchmarking year of a new, much more demanding - I might even say overwhelming - assessment system," McCraw said. "Second, we didn't even have enough money for the old system. Third, AYP standards were raised this year more than ever before."

Making things more difficult, school districts are no longer offering the "re-testing opportunities that have in the past enabled our districts to meet the standards were not available this year."

The press release from the TACS said that the U.S. Department of Education would not let the TEA suspend ratings during the first year of the ratings.

"Our schools want to focus on educating kids. We hate to be in this position," McCraw said. "But I'm confident this is not what the Texas Legislature intended. We've got to stand up for ourselves until our representatives can address the situation."

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