From staff and wire reports

The Killeen and Copperas Cove Independent School districts bucked the statewide trend when they were named recognized districts by the Texas Education Agency Friday.

Statewide, Texas school ratings plummeted under tough new standards imposed by TEA, with the number of unacceptable schools jumping more than 400 percent.

The number of exemplary schools — the state’s highest rating — fell from 2,637 last year to 1,224 in 2011. The number of unacceptable schools rose from 104 to 569 this year, the agency reported. Schools and districts are placed into one of four categories: exemplary, recognized, academically acceptable and unacceptable.

Killeen ISD was named as recognized for the second year in a row.

“I believe that this rating affirms the quality work done by staff across the district,” KISD Superintendent Robert Muller said in a statement. “This ‘recognized’ district status also reflects the dedication of our teachers and campus administration to student learning and meeting the needs of their students.”

Copperas Cove ISD also was a recognized district last year.

“The ‘recognized’ rating is a direct result of the hard work of our staff and students,” CCISD Superintendent Rose Cameron said. “In a time where accountability standards continue to change, our students and staff continue to make the difference in their classrooms. I am extremely proud of the efforts of each individual in the CCISD.”

The ratings are based on a formula that includes standardized tests, completion rates and drop-out rates. Schools that perform poorly over several years can be shut down if they don’t meet the state’s standards. Parents also may request transfers for their children out of unacceptable schools.

Education Commissioner Robert Scott said the lower scores reflect tougher standards imposed this year. The agency eliminated a controversial calculation called the Texas Performance Measure, which critics say allowed schools to count students who failed the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills as passing on the expectation that they would score better in the future.

The Texas House of Representatives unanimously voted to abolish the measure, but the legislation did not make it into law. Scott said he decided to drop the measure to prevent any further criticism of the school ranking system. In 2010, 62 percent of the schools that obtained exemplary status did so relying on a boost from the Texas Performance Measure.

Scott insisted that eliminating the measure from the calculation of ratings was not the only factor in the lower ratings. The state also raised the minimum test scores required for a school or district to gain a recognized or exemplary rating.

“We have also raised the number of students actually taking the test, from 90 percent up to 94 percent,” Scott said. The agency has also increased the number of special education students involved in the school accountability program by providing special tests for those groups.

There were similar changes on the district level, with the number of exemplary districts falling from 241 in 2010 to 61 this year. The number of unacceptable districts more than doubling from 37 to 88, or roughly 7.2 percent of the school districts in Texas.

Nationally, Texas students rank 49th in the nation on the verbal portion and 46th on the math section of the SAT college preparatory exam.

TEA ratings by campus

Copperas Cove ISD — Recognized

Exemplary: Martin Walker Elementary

Recognized: S.C. Lee Junior High, C.R. Clements/Hollie Parsons Elementary, Fairview/Miss Jewell Elementary, Hettie Halstead Elementary, Mae Stevens Elementary

Academically Acceptable: Copperas Cove High School, Crossroads High School, Copperas Cove Junior High, J.L. Williams/Lovett Ledger Elementary

Killeen ISD — Recognized

Exemplary: Clifton Park Elementary, Montague Village Elementary, Mountain View Elementary, Oveta Culp Hobby Elementary, Venable Village Elementary

Recognized: Bellaire Elementary, Brookhaven Elementary, Cavazos Elementary, Cedar Valley Elementary, Duncan Elementary, East Ward Elementary, Fowler Elementary, Harker Heights Elementary, Hay Branch Elementary, Maxdale Elementary, Meadows Elementary, Nolanville Elementary, Peebles Elementary, Reeces Creek Elementary, Saegert Elementary, Skipcha Elementary, Sugar Loaf Elementary, Timber Ridge Elementary, West Ward Elementary, Charles Patterson Middle School, Liberty Hill Middle School, Union Grove Middle School

Academically acceptable: Clarke Elementary, Clear Creek Elementary, Iduma Elementary, Ira Cross Elementary, Pershing Park Elementary, Trimmier Elementary, Willow Springs Elementary, Audie Murphy Middle School, Eastern Hills Middle School, Live Oak Ridge Middle School, Manor Middle School, Nolan Middle School, Palo Alto Middle School, Rancier Middle School, Smith Middle School, Ellison High School, Harker Heights High School, Killeen High School, Shoemaker High School, Bell County Detention Center, Pathways Academic Campus