e-Texas e-Texassmaller smarter faster governmentDecember, 2000
Carole Keeton Rylander
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

Recommendations of the Texas Comptroller

Chapter 6: Education

Reconstitute School Staffs and Revoke Administrators’ Certificates in Chronically Low-Performing Schools


Changes in school staffing can produce rapid improvements in student performance. The state’s commissioner of Education should place schools on probation if they are rated “low performing” for two consecutive years. If the school fails to improve by the end of the third year, the commissioner should impose mandatory reconstitution, and remove and replace staff.


The Texas Education Agency’s Texas Public School Accountability System (TPSAS), in place since the 1993-94 school year, uses scores on the TAAS, attendance rates, and dropout rates to rank individual campuses in one of four categories: “Exemplary,” “Recognized,” “Academically Acceptable,” or “Low-Performing.” Over the years, the TAAS standard for the Exemplary category has stayed the same, while TAAS standards for the other categories have been raised.

Since TPSAS was instituted, the number of Texas campuses rated Exemplary or Recognized has risen, while the number rated Acceptable has decreased, a trend indicating that Texas’ accountability standards have succeeded in improving the performance of many schools.[1] The number of low-performing schools fell consistently until 1998; unfortunately, this number has begun to rise again, more than doubling between 1998 and 2000 (from 59 to 146 campuses). TAAS scores were a factor in 86 percent of the campuses rated low-performing in 2000.[2]

Many Texans have expressed concerns over the plight of students trapped in “low performing” public schools. Approximately 44 percent of Texans responding to a 1999 poll favored allowing students to leave such schools.[3] Some school districts throughout the country have recently begun enacting a firm but effective reform: they have reconstituted, or replaced the entire staffs of low-performing schools.[4]

“Reconstitution” is the process in which all or part of a school’s teachers must resign and reapply for their jobs with the school district. Research confirms that the results of such measures are well worth the effort.[5] States that have used reconstitution have worked with teachers’ unions before instituting the reforms to ensure that the effort has adequate support.

The Texas Commissioner of Education has the authority to take this step but has never used it. Three campuses in the San Antonio ISD (SAISD) have been reconstituted under the supervision of a commissioner-appointed monitor since 1995.[6] These schools have shown average TAAS performance gains of 31 percentage points since reconstitution.[7] SAISD retained discretion in the method used to restaff its campuses, and each campus principal and a site-based committee assembled solely for this purpose decided whether or not individual teachers would be rehired. Those teachers not rehired at the same campus were assigned to other positions in the district.

Corpus Christi ISD voluntarily chose to reconstitute or “disestablish” its Wynn Seale Middle School in 1995. The campus changed its name to the Academy of Fine Arts, and improved its scores dramatically.[8] In the first year after reconstitution, TAAS scores for students at the campus improved from 22 percent to 29 percent passing. By 2000, the passing rate had reached 65 percent, an improvement of 43 percentage points in five years.[9]


State law should be amended to require the Commissioner of Education to reconstitute campuses that are chronically rated low-performing due to Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) performance.

Any public school rated as low-performing for two consecutive years due to the failure of any student group to pass the TAAS—Texas had seven such campuses in 2000—should be placed on probationary status.[10] A school placed on probation should make use of technical assistance available from its regional education service center on topics such as staffing and resource allocation. If the school fails to improve by the end of the third year, the commissioner of Education should order the complete reconstitution of the campus and consider revoking the certificate of its administrator. Provisions for revoking administrator certificates could be added to the Professional Educator’s Code of Ethics by the State Board for Educator Certification.

Fiscal Impact

This recommendation would have no significant fiscal impact for the state. Based on San Antonio’s experience, it should have no significant fiscal impact for school districts.[11]


[1] Texas Education Agency, “District and School Accountability Ratings for Texas Public School Districts, 1995 through 2000,” October 2000 (http://www.tea.state.tx.us/perfreport/account/ratingsxyrs.html). (Internet document.)

[2] Texas Education Agency, Office of Policy Planning and Research, Division of Performance Reporting, “Campuses Receiving a Low-Performing Rating in 2000, Table L.3,” (Austin, Texas, October 2000).

[3] “The Scripps Howard Texas Poll,” Austin, Texas, Spring 1999.

[4] Carolyn Hendrie, “A Mixed Record for Reconstitution Flashes a Yellow Light for Districts,” Education Week (July 8, 1998) (http://www.edweek.org/ew/vol-17/42recon.h17). (Internet document.)

[5] North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, “Convincing Districts to Be Productive,” by Anne Turnbaugh Lockwood, in New Leaders for Tomorrow’s Schools, Fall 1996 (http://www.ncrel.org/cscd/pubs/lead31/31convin.htm). (Internet document.)

[6] Telephone interview with Fran Latour, executive assistant, Accountability and Accreditation, Texas Education Agency, Austin, Texas, September 8, 2000.

[7] Texas Education Agency, “1999 Campus AEIS History Report,” (http://www.tea.state.tx.us/perfreport/aeis/). (Internet document.) and “Academic Excellence Indicator System, 1999-2000 Campus Performance Reports,” (Austin, Texas, 2000).

[8] Telephone interview with Dr. Lopez, executive director of Instruction and Student Services, Corpus Christi Independent School District, Corpus Christi, Texas, September 11, 2000.

[9] Texas Education Agency, “1999 Campus AEIS History Report,” (http://www.tea.state.tx.us/perfreport/aeis/). (Internet document.) and “Academic Excellence Indicator System, 1999-2000 Campus Performance Reports,” (Austin, Texas, 2000).

[10] Texas Education Agency, “2000 Statewide Rating Summary,” (http://www.tea.state.tx.us/perfreport/account/2000). (Internet document.); and “1999 Statewide Rating Summary,” (http://www.tea.state.tx.us/perfreport/account/99). (Internet document.)

[11] Telephone interview with Dr. John Cadena, Research, Evaluation and Testing, San Antonio Independent School District, San Antonio, Texas, September 18, 2000.

e-Texas is an initiative of Carole Keeton Rylander, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
Post Office Box 13528, Capitol Station
Austin, Texas

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