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State Orders Closure of Texas District

And in news not related to cheating—but don't worry, I'll come back to that topic soon—the Texas commissioner of education has ordered the closure of the 7,500-student North Forest Independent School District near Houston because of years of financial and academic problems.

The Houston Chronicle
reports that Commissioner Robert Scott is ordering the shutdown of the district by July 2012. The federal justice department has to sign off on the closure, and the district can still appeal.

Drastic step? Yes, but according to a letter from the state to district leaders posted by the Chronicle, the move comes after years of problems, including a two-year takeover by the state from 2008 to 2010. The district has been rated "academically unacceptable" for three consecutive years; the district's only high school, created from the merger of two other struggling schools, has also been rated academically unacceptable.

In 2008, the district dismissed a superintendent, who appealed and got a settlement of $233,000. Ten months later, the school board tried to rehire him.

The state stepped in around this time and appointed a state education official to run the troubled district, but then the board voted to place him on paid administrative leave.

This isn't the first time Texas has taken this step. In 2006, the Wilmer-Hutchins Independent School district was closed down for poor academic performance and a cheating scandal—yet another one—on the state tests. It was absorbed into the neighboring Dallas district.

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