AUSTIN — Forty-four percent of Texas campuses met federal Adequate Yearly Progress targets this year, the Texas Education Agency announced Aug. 8.
The agency attributed Texas’ score to steep increases required by the No Child Left Behind Act, and mentioned that the state’s request “to use a similar approach with the federal system” and carry over the 2011 AYP ratings into 2012 as the state transitions to the new STAAR testing program (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) was denied by the U.S. Department of Education.
Under this federal school accountability system, the TEA explained, a school or district this year met AYP requirements if 87 percent or more of their students passed the state reading/English language arts test; 83 percent of their students passed the state mathematics test; 95 percent of their students participated in the state testing program and, depending on the grade level, had either a 75 percent graduation rate or a 90 percent attendance rate. Twenty-eight percent of Texas districts met these high standards, the TEA said. Those requirements are comparable to Recognized or Exemplary level performance in the 2011 state accountability system.
Shoulders increase safety
The Texas Department of Transportation on Aug. 9 published its finding that state highways are safer thanks to the adding of shoulders and width to more than 1,000 miles of rural, two-lane highways.
Texas Transportation Institute’s study of three years of pre-and post-improvement data on more than a thousand miles of narrow two-lane highways show that on 1,159 miles of recently added highway shoulders, there were 133 fewer fatalities and 895 fewer injuries compared to prior to widening, TxDOT reported.
The Texas Transportation Institute, part of The Texas A&M University System and headquartered at College Station, was founded in 1950. Funding for such state highway improvements comes from 2003, when voters gave the Texas Transportation Commission the authority to issue $3 billion in bonds to pay for state highway improvements, TxDOT explained. The law stipulated that 20 percent of that amount must be used to fund projects that would reduce crashes or correct or improve hazardous locations on the state system.
Tax revenue climbs again
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs announced Aug. 8 that state sales tax revenue in July was $2.05 billion, up 10.1 percent compared to July 2011.
“Business spending in the oil and natural gas industry and other sectors continues to be robust,” Combs said in an agency news release. “That spending, along with increases in consumer sectors such as retail trade, continues to boost sales tax collections. State sales tax revenue has now increased for 28 consecutive months.” Combs said August local sales tax allocations totaling $632.1 million will be returned to cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts.
Graduation rate calculated
The Texas Education Agency on Aug. 3 announced the statewide “on-time” graduation rate climbed to an all-time high, reaching 85.9 percent for the Class of 2011.
The reported rate is 1.6 percentage points higher than the previous record set by the Class of 2010, and more than 92 percent of the 319,588 students in the Class of 2011 either graduated in four years or continued high school for a fifth year, the agency added.
‘FirstNet’ permit OK’d
The Federal Communications Commission has authorized a permit for Texas to operate a broadband network designed for first responders to share more data and access to communication resources, the Texas Department of Public Safety announced on Aug. 3. In gaining permission to operate the network, Texas joins the nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network, called FirstNet. The federal 9/11 Commission recommended the implementation of such a system. DPS Director Steven McCraw said, “The ability to immediately share information across law enforcement jurisdictions and among emergency responders is critical to public safety.”
Man executed for murder
Marvin Lee Wilson, 54, was executed by lethal injection in Huntsville by the State of Texas on Aug. 7 for the murder of 21-year-old Jerry Robert Williams in 1992. He was the 484th death row inmate to be executed since the Texas death penalty was reinstituted in 1982. Wilson’s score of 61 on an IQ test, interpreted as indicating mental retardation, set off debate as to the suitability of the sentence. According to Texas Department of Criminal Justice information, after a physical confrontation between the two men in Beaumont, Wilson abducted and shot Williams.