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      Accountability grading system for Valley schools set to change

      Beginning on August 8th, 2013, the Texas Education Agency will implement new ratings under the 2013 state accountability system.

      Schools will no longer be rated Exemplary, Recognized, Acceptable or Unacceptable, instead they will receive one of the following new ratings: Met Standard, Met Alternative Standard and Improvement Required.

      The state is using what's called a performance index framework to generate the rating based off the following 4 categories: student achievement, student progress, closing performance gaps and post secondary readiness which is for grades 9-12 only.

      Tony Limon, superintendent for the San Benito Consolidated Independent School District, believes the new system is a step in the right direction.

      "We're going to have a system now that puts some value on progress the students are making instead of just taking an absolute score and comparing it with other districts," he said.

      One example is with the category called Student Progress.

      It provides the opportunity for minority driven campuses to show improvements made independent of overall achievement level, according to the state.

      That could bode well for school districts in the Rio Grande Valley.

      For instance, Miller Jordan Middle School is one of two campuses in the San Benito CISD with an academically Unacceptable rating.

      The superintendent says it's been frozen that way for the last two years because of the drop-out rate.

      But under the new system, this school could benefit from the changes in benchmarks on progress, according to Limon.

      "An apple-to-apple true comparison... let's take a look at the demographics and let's compare equal demographics," he said. "And I think this will allow us to do that and it will show the progress our students are making."

      The second phase of the accountability system won't roll out until 2014.

      That's when the grading system will change once again to letter form, where just like students, schools will receive an A thru F grade.

      Superintendent Limon says a letter grade for schools will further simplify the assessment process for parents and taxpayers.

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