Texas schools get first look at A-F rating system


AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Education Agency has released their new system for school ratings. The Texas Legislature passed a bill during the 2015 legislative session that aims to change the Texas school accountability system to make it easier to understand how schools stack up by giving an A through F rating.

Currently, schools are rated on a pass, fail system. TEA officials say Friday’s release of the ratings are not the official grade for schools, instead more of a test run of the new system required by lawmakers in the bill.

With the new system, schools are evaluated based on their STAAR scores, how the poorest students are doing, attendance rates, and if students are making progress from year to year. Post-secondary readiness encompasses everything, but the STAAR exam. Things like enrollment in technology courses and AP and SAT scores. Not rated on the provisional release of the grades is community and student engagement.

The new ratings encompass five different domains:

  • Student Achievement
  • Student Progress
  • Closing Performance Gaps
  • Post-secondary readiness
  • Community and Student Engagement

How the Districts Fared

The largest school district in Central Texas, Austin ISD, received a B rating for Domain I and II but a C and D for Domain III and IV. The only two schools in AISD that received “A’s” across the board were LASA and Richards School for Young Women.

Leander ISD received B, A, D and C respectively for the various Domains.

San Marcos CISD also received an overall “Met Standards” but their grades includes one “C” and three “D’s.”

Given the limitations of data available, the report will feature possible grades for four of the five domains, and will not include an overall rating for any campus or district.

This new rating system won’t be used by the state until August 2018, schools will continue to be ranked this year under the current system. The TEA is still working on guidelines schools will follow to improve their grade if they get a C or lower. Friday’s provisional release is a chance to work out the kinks over the next year while offering parents an easier way to understand how their child’s school is doing.

Concerns With the New Ratings

“What this attempts to do is bring in more components which has been quite often the criticism of any ratings system, how do you measure beyond STAAR? How do you measure beyond test scores? So there are other components being brought in that at least help a parent understand beyond the test scores how is my school doing?” says Gene Acuna, Director of Communication, TEA.

The ratings were given to lawmakers to review at the start of the year but Texas school districts are already saying this new system is unfair before they see their grade. Superintendents from Manor, Dripping Springs, and Bastrop are calling on lawmakers this session to repeal the bill. They say the ratings system relies to heavily on tests that are taken once per year and instead are calling on lawmakers to develop a community-based accountability system that empowers school districts to design their own internal system of assessment and accountability that meets state standards. This they believe would allow them to innovate and customize curriculum in place of the A through F system.

Officials with Round Rock ISD say the new rating system is too simplistic.

“We feel it doesn’t measure a true performance of a public school,” says Corey Ryan, Round Rock ISD Spokesman. “We are asked to do so many things in terms of service to community that can’t be broken down into a single letter grade.”

Lawmakers like Rep. Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock, says he hears the concerns and will work to address them. “I just want people to take the time to understand what’s in the report if there are tweaks to be made about the methodology we will absolutely look at those,” said Gonzales.

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