AUSTIN, Texas — Which Texas schools and school districts successfully combine high academic achievement with cost-effective operations?

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs has updated her groundbreaking 2010 Financial Allocation Study for Texas and assigned new rankings to 1,237 school districts and charter schools, using the most recent educational data.

In the new report, 46 school districts receive the highest rating of five stars, compared to 43 districts that achieved the top ranking in the original study. Five stars mean the district’s spending is very low compared to peer districts and students’ academic performance is very high in comparison with the rest of the state.

“Today, many Texas school districts face the challenge of educating more students with less funding,” Combs said. “FAST is an online tool they can use to compare their performance with similar districts. Users can compare districts using a variety of indicators such as dropout rates, transportation spending, state accountability ratings or math scores.”

The 2009 Texas Legislature mandated the comptroller to create a method to fairly compare the state’s diverse school districts. When comparing district and campus spending, the FAST methodology groups districts and campuses into sets of “fiscal peers” that operate in similar cost environments, including factors such as regional wages, district size and student characteristics.

In addition to ratings for all Texas public school districts, campuses and charter schools, the FAST website at http://www.FASTEXAS.org offers examples of “Smart Practices” employed by school districts to achieve greater efficiency and enhance student performance. Smart Practices can be emulated by other districts and they are also intended to spark new solutions to the cost of delivering a quality education.

“The FAST methodology produces unbiased comparisons that are realistic and useful to educators, parents and taxpayers who want to see how their public schools stack up.” Combs said.

Based on the FAST formula, school districts and campuses receive ratings from one to five stars, with half-star increments. A district that achieves the highest rating of five stars ranks among the top 20 percent of all Texas school districts in academic progress, while keeping spending among the lowest 20 percent of fiscally comparable districts.

FAST ratings are updated annually using the most recent data from the Texas Education Agency.

Ellis County schools

Each district and campus is assigned a FAST rating of one to five stars, indicating its success in combining cost-effective spending with the achievement of measurable student academic progress. Five stars reflects the strongest relative progress combined with the lowest relative spending.

FAST ratings for Ellis County districts are:

Avalon ISD — 4-1/2 stars

Ennis ISD — 2-1/2 stars

Ferris ISD — 2-1/2 stars

Italy ISD — 3-1/2 stars

Maypearl ISD — 4-1/2 stars

Midlothian ISD — 5 stars

Milford ISD — 4 stars

Palmer ISD — 5 stars

Red Oak ISD — 4 stars

Waxahachie Faith Family Academy — 3 stars

Waxahachie ISD — 3-1/2 stars