August 1, 2008

El Paso Schools Get Passing Marks

By Zahira Torres, El Paso Times, Texas

Aug. 1--| |

EL PASO -- The city's three largest school districts either met or exceeded minimum state standards at all campuses, according to district administrators who have already seen the Texas Education Agency results expected to be released Friday.

The El Paso, Ysleta and Socorro Independent School Districts are celebrating gains in the number of exemplary, recognized and academically acceptable campuses -- based on criteria that include Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills Scores, dropout rates and attendance records.

None of the three districts had academically unacceptable schools, according to state accountability ratings, which will be released at noon Friday.

Sara Corral, a teacher at Ranchland Hills Middle School, whose son attends Hacienda Heights Elementary School, said she is happy with the Ysleta's success but would like to see less focus placed on Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills scores.

"I think (the district's improvement) is a plus,"

Corral said. "It is really good. But I don't think (the district or the state) should just focus on TAKS. TAKS sometimes doesn't measure whether a student knows the material or not. I had a very smart student. Mom and dad were doctors, and she didn't pass the TAKS that day because mom and dad had a fight the night before."

El Paso Independent School District has six exemplary schools, up four from the previous year; 27 recognized schools, an increase of 11; and 51 acceptable schools, a decrease from 56 the previous year.

The district, which had eight academically unacceptable schools last year, moved all of the campuses out of that category.

"The big results we've had over the last couple of years were brought forth by really working together, building our standards-based curriculum and identifying district-wide resources," EPISD superintendent Lorenzo Garcia said. "We also have a very unique plan in staff development where we have teachers working in teams and quality teachers coaching teachers."

Ysleta reported three exemplary campuses, two more than last year; 27 recognized campuses, an increase of seven; and 25 acceptable schools, a slight decrease.

Socorro had three exemplary schools, an increase of two from 2007, and 19 recognized schools, which is an increase from only five last year. The district also reported 15 acceptable schools, down from 31 last year.

"It's really attributable to so many people who have been working hard to ensure student success," Socorro Interim Superintendent Mary Benham said. "It's the teachers, the students, the teachers' aides and so many others. We give as much support as we can but really the majority of work is done in the classroom.

"Also, now that the test has been around a few years, we understand more of what they are looking for and we can analyze the data to work with individual students in certain areas," Benham said.

To get an exemplary ranking, about 90 percent of a school's students must pass the TAKS. To get a recognized ranking, at least 75 percent of students at the school must pass.

To be academically acceptable, schools must have passing rates of least a 70 percent in English language arts-reading, 65 percent in writing and social studies, 50 percent in math and 45 percent in science.

"This is just one more indicator that our schools deliver quality instruction to all of our students," Ysleta Interim Superintendent Roger Parks said in a written statement. "In the coming months, we will celebrate our accomplishment while ensuring that all of our students learn at higher levels."

Zahira Torres may be reached at [email protected]; 546-6156.

--Read the complete list of exemplary, recognized and acceptable schools.

Exemplary schools --El Paso Independent School District: Silva Health Magnet High School, Bonham Elementary School, Western Hills Elementary School, Cielo Vista Elementary School, Polk Elementary School, Green Elementary School.

--Ysleta Independent School District: Washington Elementary"School, Scotsdale Elementary School and Valle Verde Early College High"School.

--Socorro Independent School District: Shook Elementary School, Loma Verde Elementary"School, Mission Early College High School.

--To see rankings for other campuses visit


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