The Texas Education Agency announced Tuesday it will delay the release of its 2023 A-through-F accountability ratings for “approximately one month” as it changes a new formula that would have delivered lower scores for districts across the state.
TEA officials planned to enact a formula that updated a system first used in 2017 and cracked down on some methods schools have used to more easily boost their scores. However, some school districts and parents criticized the move, calling it an unfair, late switch.
Several Texas school districts filed a lawsuit in late August, arguing that Texas education officials did not follow state law in crafting the 2023 accountability framework. The districts, none of which are located in the Greater Houston area, are asking a judge to stop Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath from using the updated system. The request is pending before a Travis County judge.
The scores were originally set to be released on Sept. 28, already a one-month delay from what is typical, after the TEA said it would be updating its grading system.
The TEA’s accountability ratings for districts and campuses are based on a combination of standardized test scores; improvement on those tests; performance relative to campuses serving similar student populations; and success in closing achievement gaps. High schools are also graded on the number of graduates deemed ready for college, a career or the military.
TEA officials said Tuesday that they plan to re-evaluate the data used to determine students’ improvement on state tests, allowing the state to “ensure ratings reflect the most appropriate goals for students.”
“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,” Morath said in a statement.
In early August, Houston ISD Superintendent Mike Miles explained that the tweaks to Texas’ scoring system would make it more difficult for the district’s schools to receive higher ratings. When applying the updated formula to HISD’s test scores from last year, the district’s overall rating would have dropped from 88 to 76 — or a C-rated district.
The district’s rating is vital to HISD’s future. Morath appointed Miles and a nine-member board of managers to lead HISD in June, largely due to chronically poor scores at Wheatley High School. The education commissioner said in March that one of the appointed board’s top responsibilities is ensuring HISD has no schools with D or F grades in consecutive years.
The accountability system update outraged some Houston parents, who said the changes move the goalpost on HISD after its accountability score improved in recent years. Over 200 school districts across the state, HISD included, also protested the changes in a letter to state officials. They argued the changes, which came after the start of the 2022-23 school year, didn’t give school leaders enough time to respond to the new parameters and would confuse Texas families.
“In the midst of a teacher shortage, the last thing school districts need is another false narrative that drives a wedge between schools and the families they serve,” the districts wrote in the letter. “No public relations campaign from the TEA will be adequate to combat the misperception that our schools are suddenly worse than they were last year.”
Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia Molina said Tuesday she hopes Morath will “abandon his plans to unfairly change the rules in the middle of the game.”
“Evaluating the performance of school districts is important. But performance targets must be set in advance and not be changed by the state after a school year has been completed and many students already have graduated,” Molina said in a statement.