Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Texas School Drops Athletics To Save District

This from the Huffington Post
In a desperate effort to boost student performance and save a school system from closure, one Texas school district has made the mid-year decision to eliminate its athletic programs -- in a state where sports are a highly coveted pastime.

The Premont Independent School District in South Texas lost accreditation last year after it had failed to meet adequate yearly progress requirements since 2007 under the federal No Child Left Behind law. Premont ISD was slated to close by this July, but the closure has been suspended to allow the district more time to turn around its student performance and attendance rates.

"A Not Accredited-Revoked status means that the Texas Education Agency no longer recognizes the district as a Texas public school," according to the Houston Elementary Education Examiner.

Threats to closure have already sent many packing, and others are looking to leave the district. Enrollment has fallen to 570 students this year, from 800 five years ago, the Associated Press reports. About 100 students take part in school athletics.

Now, schools Superintendent Ernest Singleton is looking to go door-to-door for truant students, seeking to raise the district's 88 percent attendance rate. The Texas average is 96 percent, according to AP. Student athletics will be suspended at least until next spring.

By cutting sports, Singleton seeks to increase study time for students and save $150,000 over two semesters, to be reinvested into bringing in highly qualified teachers and install two new science labs by August.

Parents and critics are worried that the elimination of athletics will decrease students' opportunities for physical activity and increase chances for bad behavior. Some say that the loss of sports could further demotivate students to go to school, and do well.

The Texas Education Agency, charged with school accreditation, can suspend Singleton's experiment at the agency's discretion if the district is not making sufficient progress.

"The hole is so deep it's going to be very hard for them to dig out of it," TEA spokesperson Debbie Graves Ratcliffe told AP.

Overall, Texas' education policies and curriculum have seen mixed reviews. A report in the fall by University of Texas at El Paso professor Keith Erekson said the state's K-12 standards in history are inadequate, ineffective and "fail to meet the state's college readiness standards."...

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