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Midland And Odessa See A Huge Increase In The Number Of Public Schools Failing To Meet State Standards

By Mitch Borden

The Texas Education Agency issued letter grades for its annual accountability ratings to detail how schools and districts performed last year. Similar to how teachers grade homework, the state assessed schools on their performance and gave out A’s and B’s to schools that are excelling and D’s and F’s to those struggling.

In the Permian Basin, the report showed that Midland and Odessa had a big jump in the amount of schools receiving failing marks during the 2018-2019 school year.

In total, the state rated nine of Midland Independent School District’s campuses as failing, while Odessa's Ector County Independent School District had 16 failing schools. For both districts, that’s nearly double the number of schools that received the equivalent of an F-grade last year. In total, half of the schools in both districts, couldn’t score better than a C in their performance review. Meaning, the state could set out mandatory education requirements that those campuses will have to meet.

Ector County’s new superintendent Dr. Scott Muri said, "We are not happy where we are today." He believes students deserve better than these results and said steps are being taken to improve the schools in Odessa such as the creation of a five-year strategic plan. There's one thing in particular though, that tops Muri's list of challenges facing Ector County ISD.

According to him, "The staffing crisis that we are experiencing today and that we have experienced for several years is a contributing factor to the performance of our system."

Currently, Ector County ISD has over 300 teacher vacancies along. Muri said that’s a big problem, but he’s excited to start working on a solution.

Midland ISD issued a statement concerning the school system assessment. It focused on the progress the district made and it didn't draw too much attention to its increasing number of schools failing to meet state standards. It did, however, quote a district official saying the district has plenty to celebrate, but "we know that there are still areas that need our focus." Midland is also dealing with staffing issues of its own, currently, it has around 150 teacher vacancies.

Even though the two school districts face major challenges, both improved their state accountability assessment even with many of their schools earning lackluster ratings. Midland ISD went from a score of 73 to 75 maintaining a C average. While Ector County ISD jumped a whole letter grade. The Odessa district went from a D to a C.

Mitch Borden is Permian Basin Reporter & Producer at Marfa Public Radio.