Three Ellis County schools are recognized in Texas Monthly’s fourth annual listing of the best public schools.

The magazine’s December issue honors 859 schools from among the state’s 1,033 independent and common school districts, including Austin Elementary in Ennis ISD, Dunaway Elementary in Waxahachie ISD and Palmer Middle School in Palmer ISD.

The Austin-based magazine’s listing was done in coordination with the National Center for Education Accountability and involved a review of three years’ worth of student testing data. The listing automatically included the state’s top 5 percent of schools and added those schools that performed better than predicted using statistical analyses, the Texas Monthly report said.

“The schools identified by the National Center for Educational Accountability for Texas Monthly's Best Practice Schools Lists are those that exhibit outstanding performance in comparison to similar schools across multiple grades and years,” according to the center’s Web site, “As the foundation of NCEA’s Best Practice research, the behaviors of higher performing schools like these are compared with those of average performing schools in order to determine the unique practices of the most successful campuses.”

In the elementary school category, 477 campuses were honored across the state, with Texas Monthly noting in its report, “Students at the elementary schools that are included here performed better, across all grades, on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test than did their counterparts at other schools around the state.”

“This is a great accomplishment for Austin Elementary,” EISD director of public relations Henry Martinez said of the school, which serves first- through third-graders. “All four of our elementary schools are rated exemplary by the Texas Education Agency and this recognition further highlights Ennis ISD’s commitment to academic excellence.

“The students, parents, teachers and staff should be commended for the time and effort put toward this type of achievement,” Martinez said. “It takes a real team effort to make this happen.”

"Being selected as on of the best public schools in Texas using the criteria established by the National Center for Education is an honor," Austin principal Jan White said. "The staff of Austin Elementary are professional in all endeavors and this accomplishment reflects their diligent efforts to expect the best from each student.

"This honor needs to be shared with the parents and community members of Ennis because they support and volunteer their time when needed," White said. "I want to extend my thanks to the Ennis ISD administrative and support staff for their support to keep Ennis ISD on the "cutting edge" of innovative and research based ideas."

“We are extremely pleased that Dunaway Elementary was chosen by Texas Monthly Magazine as one of the state’s top elementary schools,” WISD Superintendent Thomas J. Collins said of the campus, which is rated as recognized by the Texas Education Agency. “The staff and students at Dunaway are to be commended for their hard work and commitment to excellence.”

“Dunaway Elementary is a great campus,” Principal Eric Brewster said of his school, which serves a first- through fifth-grade student population of 500. “Our staff is among the best in the state and our kids are simply the best.”

The Texas Monthly listing honored 246 middle schools and 136 high schools, with the magazine noting in its report that “Middle schools and high schools made the list because their students’ improvement on the TAKS test was higher than predicted by their previous test scores.”

“We are thrilled that our middle school would be listed by Texas Monthly as one of the top schools in the state,” PISD Superintendent Alan Oakley said of his campus, which serves sixth- through eighth-grades. “It is a credit to the staff of the middle school and their consistency. As pleased as I am, as proud as I am of all of our campuses - and they all work so hard - it is thrilling for our parents, our students, staff and members of our district to be given this honor.

“This is an honor, the whole district can take pride in,” Oakley said, noting other accolades recently received include multiple gold performance honors at each PISD campus. “District-wide, we are continuing to set high standards for all of our campuses. The fact that our middle school was honored with this is a credit to the parents, students and staff.”

According to the Texas Education Agency, the state’s public school system served almost 4.6 million students during the 2006-2007 school year, representing an increase of almost 600,000 students during the last six years.

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