According to Bullard ISD Superintendent Keith Bryant, it was July when Bullard Independent School District was notified that not only would their high school be academically unacceptable due to low completion rate, but also the fact that their only high school was unacceptable would cause their entire district to be labeled unacceptable.
Immediately Bullard ISD administration filed appeals through the Texas Education Agency in Austin.
“This morning I received a letter from the Commissioner of Education, Mr. Robert Scott, which informed the administration that our appeals had been approved and the school district’s rating along with the high school’s rating would be improved from academically unacceptable to academically acceptable,” Bryant said.
BISD submitted two separate appeals for consideration to TEA.
“The first was a young lady who was here for three weeks during the fall of 2006,” Bryant said. “For two weeks she was in our high school and the week after she was in the Smith County Juvenile Detention Center. She was then withdrawn and taken to live in Alabama.
“The second child we appealed was a senior in 2009, who would have graduated with a regular diploma. Less than a month before graduation he was arrested for a felony in Smith County. We appealed both children for the fact that the district had no control whether the students stayed in school with BISD or not. Both appeals were granted.”
Bryant also said that if it had not been for completion rate being at 0.3 percent below acceptable standards, the school district itself and the high school would received more than adequate ratings from TEA.
“Academically, were doing very well, factors we control, were doing very well,” he said. “We think that this appeal being granted recognizes how unfair the rating system is that TEA uses and shows that when data is to the contrary to their standards they will use common sense in granting appeals. We cannot always control whether or not parents keep their children in our schools.”
He also said, not only was he glad for the teachers in the district, but the students as well.
“We certainly do not feel that we are an unacceptable district and we do not have any unacceptable campuses, these appeals were necessary and they helped the district,” he said.
The rules regulating the certification of schools by the Texas Education Agency are lengthy but basically revolve around two things.
“We’ll the accountability system that TEA uses to rate the schools are the percentage that pass the TAKS test, and the percentage of students who complete the curriculum in the school,” said TEA spokesperson Debbie Ratcliffe. “There are hundreds of different reasons why students enroll then leave before graduation. A lot of those reasons a district does have control over. It’s hard to create a system that is perfect state wide that prepares for all decisions, That’s why we have an appeals process and why in some situations that a district will win an appeal.”
The process is quite lengthy and took approximately four months for a decision in the case of Bullard ISD to be finalized.
Due to the fact that the actual appeal letters and related materials have not been released to the public, specific comments from TEA regarding the reconsideration of the rating given to Bullard ISD were unavailable.
“A district will send us any information where they think we might have misinterpreted something or they have additional information which would make a discrepancy more clear,” Ratcliffe said. “Our staff will review it and decide on a recommendation, then an independent panel will review our recommendation then it goes to the commission of education. Normally appeals are denied.”
In a final comment, Bryant said, “This was the first time we have ever struggled with a rating. We were much more worried about the 600 kids in our high school than the ones that were no longer there.”