More Galveston County school districts received less than perfect marks for their special education services in the recently released 2016-17 Texas Academic Performance Report.

Texas school districts are rated as “meets requirements,” “needs assistance,” “needs intervention” or “needs substantial intervention.”

About 1,006 school districts in Texas received the best rating, “meets requirements,” in the most recent ratings, compared to 1,023 in 2015-16, said DeEtta Culbertson, spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency.

But several area school districts fell short.

Texas City ISD received the second-most severe rating from the Texas Education Agency for its low passing rates on State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness tests for students in special education services.

Texas City ISD officials said they were concerned about how special education services are evaluated by the state education agency.

“The district has ongoing concerns that the state is testing students with disabilities on the same rigorous test as their non-disabled peers without sufficient supports to compensate for their identified disabilities,” Melissa Tortorici, spokeswoman for the district, said.

This is the second year in a row Texas City has been rated “needs intervention.”

Although Texas City was the only Galveston County school district rated “needs intervention,” several other districts were given “needs assistance” ratings.

Those districts included Dickinson, Santa Fe and Hitchcock.

Culbertson was not aware of any recent changes that would have made it harder for districts to receive “meets requirements” ratings for special education services, she said.

One Galveston County district made positive gains in the ratings, with Galveston ISD moving from “needs intervention” up to “meets requirements” in the most recent ratings.

“We credit our progress to the collective efforts of our teachers, special education staff, our campus administrators and our community partners,” said Paula Franklin, special education specialist with the district.

District officials also have emphasized programs to track student progress to personalize learning experiences in special education services, Franklin said.

Texas special education services in districts across the state have faced criticism in recent months because some critics assert there was an arbitrary cap instituted by the Texas Education Agency that limits the percentage of student population that can receive special education services at 8.5 percent.

Various school districts across the state have been accused of deliberately excluding students from receiving special education services as a means to reduce costs and meet the 8.5 percent target.

Criticism culminated with the U.S. Department of Education telling Texas officials to remove the target or show the policy has not prevented students from receiving special education services.

The Texas legislature in May approved Senate Bill 160, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law prohibiting the use of a cap for special education services.

The number of students receiving special education services has gone up by about 14,000 students from 2015-16 to 2016-17, according to Texas Education Agency data.

Matt deGrood: 409-683-5230; matt.degrood@galvnews.com

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