Texas Education Agency Delays Release of Annual School Ratings

The delay comes after several school districts sued to stop the agency from releasing school rankings produced under a new rating system.

This is a photo of Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath.
Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath reports on statewide student performance at a hearing in the Texas Capitol on Feb. 28, 2022. (Leila Saidane/The Texas Tribune)

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The Texas Education Agency announced Tuesday it would delay the release of its annual school ratings to account for scoring changes that could negatively impact schools under a revamped version of the agency’s accountability system.

The TEA, which was supposed to release the ratings on Sept. 28, now expects the rankings to be released sometime next month. It’s unclear whether the new ratings will be announced before lawmakers reconvene in Austin for a special session on public education and school vouchers, which is expected to be announced before the end of the year.

The delay comes after months of complaints from school officials across the state who have said the TEA’s new accountability system would result in unfair drops in their ratings.

Under the system, districts and their campuses are assigned an A-F grade based on students’ results in the state’s standardized test, academic growth year-to-year, graduation rates and how well they prepare kids for a career after high school. Parents and community members use these scores to see how their schools and districts are performing in educating their children.

The TEA said it delayed the release of this year’s ratings to make adjustments in the “academic growth” category. School districts experienced a huge rise in that category in 2022 as kids returned to the classroom after the pandemic and started doing better on the state test. The agency believed schools could see steep declines in their ratings if it didn’t account for test scores stabilizing and returning to pre-pandemic levels.

“The A-F system is designed to properly reflect how well our schools are meeting those high expectations, and the adjustments we are making this year will ensure it continues to serve as a tool for parents and educators to help our students,” TEA Commissioner Mike Morath said in a statement Tuesday.

Since the new accountability rating system went into effect, school superintendents across the state have protested against one change in particular. Previously under the the College, Career and Military Readiness portion of the rating system, high schools would get an A if 60% of their seniors either enrolled in college, pursued a non-college career or went to the military. The revamped rating system, announced in January, would raise that benchmark and require 88% of a high school’s seniors to meet one of those criteria.

Many school leaders said the change in the benchmark was too big and too difficult to reach, especially since schools are still recovering from the pandemic’s learning disruptions.

Several Texas school districts sued the TEA about a month ago to stop the agency from moving forward with the new rating system, claiming that the changes would damage their scores.

“Accountability is an important orienting aspect for a school district; however, the arbitrary application of new measures without the required advanced notice will potentially give the appearance that schools across the state, including Frisco ISD, are declining,” said Frisco Independent School District Superintendent Mike Waldrip in a statement. “Moving the goalposts arbitrarily is unfair to our students and teachers.”

Matthew Gutierrez, superintendent of Seguin ISD, said that under this year’s changes, schools that improved their CCMR score but didn’t reach the state’s new benchmark could actually see a decline in their overall rating.

Gutierrez said schools need time to raise their CCMR scores gradually.

“Changes should be made, absolutely,” he said. “But not drastic ones.”

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

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