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District makes grade in Children at Risk rankings

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Pearland Junior High South students and teacher
Five qualifying Pearland ISD campuses recently placed among the top 100 schools in the greater Houston area and in the top third of their bracket statewide in Children at Risk's 2011 rankings.

Released in April, the following rankings are based on 265 Houston-area / 1,793 Texas middle schools and 144 Houston-area / 1,145 Texas high schools:

Berry Miller Junior High: No. 10 in Houston / No. 29 in Texas
Pearland Junior High West: No. 55 in Houston / No. 273 in Texas
Pearland Junior High East: No. 70 in Houston / No. 356 in Texas
Pearland Junior High South: No. 78 in Houston / No. 377 in Texas
Pearland High School: No. 40 in Houston / No. 330 in Texas

Statewide, Pearland ISD junior high schools ranked in the top 25 percent of the middle school bracket, while PHS ranked in the top 30 percent of its bracket.

A Houston-based nonprofit organization, Children at Risk has evaluated all Texas public schools on various academic measures since 2009, using the most recent data from the Texas Education Agency.

While groups like Children at Risk provide valid and useful data, for practicality and efficiency Pearland ISD continues to use the state-mandated TEA accountability system, which provides a measure for every student, student group and campus.

Why Did Some Pearland ISD Schools Not Make the List?

Some Children at Risk criteria immediately disqualified all other Pearland ISD campuses from inclusion in the high school and elementary school lists.

A closer look reveals the reasons these schools were not eligible for consideration:

All Elementary Schools: No fifth-grade students (Pearland ISD elementary schools have grades K-4)
All Middle Schools: No eighth-grade students (Pearland ISD middle schools have grades 5-6)
Searcy Ninth Grade Center: No graduation data
Dawson High School: No graduating class in 2009
PACE Center: Alternative schools are not included in the list.

In addition, Pearland ISD middle schools could not be included in the elementary list because they do not have grades 1-3.

"Making the Children at Risk list really depends on the criteria used, and the ranking of our campuses that made the list is really quite good," said Dr. Nyla Watson, Pearland ISD assistant superintendent of instructional programs.

"It’s hard to stay at the top when the state constantly raises the bar for achieving high accountability ratings, but our schools consistently outperform state expectations from year to year," Watson said.

In 2010, Pearland ISD received the top rating -- Exemplary -- under the state’s accountability rating system, with 15 campuses ranked Exemplary and six Recognized.

How Does Children at Risk Determine the Rankings?

High School Rankings: Children at Risk examines Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills commended rates, Recommended High School Program, advanced courses and exams, attendance and graduation rates, SAT and ACT test takers/scores and percentage of economically-disadvantaged students.

Middle School Rankings: Researchers examine TAKS commended rates, attendance and retention rates and percentage of economically-disadvantaged students.

To adjust for the effects of poverty, Children at Risk gives schools with larger concentrations of low-income students an advantage in the weighted methodology.

Most of the schools listed above Pearland ISD in the lists are very small or have a much higher rate of economically-disadvantaged or at-risk students.