2012 Law School Rankings
December 29, 2011 by staff
2012 Law School Rankings, It was an interesting year in the Memorial area. There was lots of talk about drainage solutions – in the middle of one of the worst droughts in decades. People were still talking about the “great recession” – while business and development boomed in West Houston.
Here’s a look back of at some of the top news stories of 2011. Many are continued from 2010; many will continue into 2012.
Where’s the Money?
School districts across the state watched while the 82nd Texas Legislature, facing a revenue shortfall of up to $27 billion for the biennial budget, cut more than $4 billion from public education.
For Spring Branch ISD, that meant a reduction in state funding of some $35 million over the budget biennium.
The district cut campus and department budgets and in April, eliminated nearly 350 positions from the system, roughly 100 of those affecting the classroom.
No programs were cut, and the district’s tax rate of $1.39 per $100 valuation was maintained. Trustees and administrators believe they’ve made enough cuts to make it through the 2013 budget cycle as well.
Adopted in May – before legislators adjourned the regular session and began a 30-day special session, the $251 million budget anticipates $241 in revenue, leaving a $10 million deficit to be made up from the district’s reserve fund.
The district in November joined one of several lawsuits that will challenge the state’s school finance system, a system that Spring Branch and other districts say is structurally flawed and will never generate the revenue it promises.
Building the Future
Meanwhile, the district’s $597.1 million bond program was full speed ahead. Approved by voters in 2007, the bond program touches every district facility with mechanical, drainage, or technological improvements.
It also calls for the rebuilding of originally 12, now 13, of the district’s elementary schools.
Rebuilt Wilchester, Edgewood, Shadow Oaks and Spring Branch elementaries were opened for the start of school this fall; students and teachers moved into Meadow Wood the week before Christmas break to acclimate to their new surroundings for the upcoming semester.
The district broke ground in May on Housman and Pine Shadows elementaries, which it expects to be open for students in fall 2012; and approved design plans for Frostwood Elementary, with construction expected to begin in 2013.
That leaves Valley Oaks and Rummel Creek elementaries to be rebuilt as part of the 2007 bond program.
The district recognized early in its building program that the national economic downturn was creating savings in its building program, both through reduced construction costs and lower interest rates on the bonds it was selling.
The program’s timeline was accelerated to take advantage of those savings, creating enough of a cushion to add Rummel Creek Elementary to the rebuilding list in 2010.
To Rank, or not to Rank
It was almost a slam dunk. Spring Branch ISD trustees in January authorized a task force to study the academic ranking of students in its high schools, specifically whether that rank should be automatically included on a student’s transcript.
The task force of trustees, administrators, teachers and community members reported back to the board in April, saying that it reached no consensus and that either the task force or trustees should continue the conversation.
Trustees took up the conversation and appeared ready to eliminate the reporting of rank outside of the top 10 percent, but, responding to community feedback postponed a final decision by implementing an interim policy that gave students the choice of whether to report rank.
State law requires that the top 10 percent be reported; students in the top 10 percent are automatically admitted to the state’s public universities, including UT-Austin and Texas A&M.
Proponents of class rank say that college admissions offices look at rank as a key indicator of success, and that rank encourages students to take more rigorous advanced placement courses, which are more heavily weighted in grade point average calculations.
Opponents say that GPAs are too compressed at the top and that no reported rank forces college admissions officers to do a more holistic review of an applicant. They say that grade compression forces lower rankings on good students who aren’t taking the AP courses, and limits course selection with the pressure to take those AP classes.
After a series of community meetings this fall, the board continues to consider and eliminate its class rank options and is now down to three: no reporting of rank outside of the top 10 percent; student choice with a deadline; and student choice without a deadline.
In Other Action
Spring Branch ISD last month signed a partnership agreement with KIPP Houston and YES Prep Academy to create a “school within a school” at Landrum and Northbrook middle schools. Details are still being hammered out, but the SKY Partnership will bring together “the best thinking from both traditional and charter school systems,” officials say.
The district also continues working on its next five-year plan, dubbed the Spring Branch plan. Superintendent Duncan Klussmann took to the road this fall to gather feedback on district’s goal for the next five years – double the number of Spring Branch ISD students who complete some form of post-secondary education.
Trustee Mary Grace Landrum resigned in August, just months into her recently won third term, citing time issues surrounding her business and her desire to help her husband, Michael, campaign for a district judge position. Trustees chose Chris Gonzalez, director of public relations at KIPP Houston, to replace Landrum. The unexpired position will be up for election in the spring.
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