AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Education Agency said Tuesday it will delay the release of A-F school ratings for one month.
The A-F ratings were set to be released to the public on Sept. 28, but agency officials said they want more time to analyze growth data. Specifically, the agency said it was focusing on whether it should incorporate data from the 2021-22 school year in upcoming ratings.
“Analysis of that growth data shows that the 2021-22 growth was more anomalous than expected,” TEA officials said in its press release.
The decision comes as several school districts, including Pflugerville ISD and Del Valle ISD, are suing Education Commissioner Mike Morath over the changes to how A-F ratings are calculated. The districts are asking a judge to stop the new scores’ release temporarily.
In the lawsuit, the districts claim the agency did not follow the law in notifying districts of changes to the A-F system before the school year the new metrics will be applied to begins.
“They are not attempting to create legislation. They are not attempting to change regulations. They are simply trying to have the most fair approach to being scored, to be being ranked or graded, just like anyone else would want,” attorney Nick Maddox, who represents the districts, said.
The suit also claims the new methods would dramatically decrease campus and district scores. According to Austin ISD officials, 22% of its schools would have had lower 2021-22 school year ratings under the new metrics.
“It’s time for folks to hear that the fairness of the accountability system is in question right now,” Pflugerville Superintendent Dr. Douglas Killian said during an Aug. 17 meeting where trustees decided to join the lawsuit.
The changes have generated criticism from both school officials and legislators. A bipartisan group of 26 lawmakers sent a letter to Morath in May asking him to reconsider the changes.
More than 200 school districts wrote a letter to the commissioner in March requesting the delay of the A-F accountability changes, including at least 10 Central Texas school districts.
“The A-F system was designed to make it easier for the public to understand how schools are truly performing. But increasing the cut score for A for CCMR by almost 47% in a single year will create the misconception that high-performing schools are drastically declining,” the letter stated.
What’s different with A-F ratings?
The A-F ratings are based on multiple factors — including graduation rates, the number of college, career, and military-ready students, and State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) results.
“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,” Mike Morath said in a statement.
Under the newest methods of the A-F accountability rating, many high schools would need higher graduation rates and more students to be considered college, military, and career-ready, or CCMR, to maintain their campus scores.
The previous scales would have given a campus an A if 60% of its students were college, career, and military-ready. However, under the new metrics or “cut points,” a campus would need 88% of its students to be college-, career-, and military-ready to get an A score.
Under the new rules, high schools would need a 98% graduation rate in order to get an A rating. Previously, a 96% graduation rate would have resulted in an A. Along with new metrics for judging A-F ratings, the grades will also factor in the results of the re-designed STAAR test.
According to TEA officials, before 2017, cut points were updated every year. But after HB 22 was passed that year, state law required the cut points and other indicators to be updated periodically — not necessarily annually. TEA officials said because of the law change, “cut points and indicators in the A-F system have remained largely unchanged since 2017.”