Commissioner of Education Mike Morath announced today that campuses and school districts “directly affected” by Hurricane Harvey will get to bypass this year’s state accountability ratings if they meet certain criteria established by the Texas Education Agency.
Many schools and districts in the Houston and coastal areas could avoid sanctions for low accountability ratings, but the exemption process announced today will have a particularly important impact on Houston ISD. According to the Houston Chronicle, six of the 10 schools threatened with closure will have their ratings waived. That still leaves four subject to closure or the other harsh sanction now in state law–a complete takeover of the district with a board of managers appointed by TEA. Word on the fate of the schools and district will come after final ratings are released in August.
Houston area officials and our local union–the Houston Federation of Teachers–have been calling on Morath to waive the ratings for the entire district, because of the widespread impact on communities throughout the region. The Chronicle reported that many Houston ISD campuses were closed nine days, just shy of the 10 needed to get an exemption from ratings. Morath told the Chronicle, “I think that given the totality of the impact of the storm, we had to set a threshold that was fairly low in terms of the degree of impact.”
“Commissioner Morath has missed an opportunity to provide Houston ISD and its students with true relief from a punitive and misguided accountability system after the worst storm in that city’s history,” said Texas AFT President Louis Malfaro. “Providing some schools with an exemption while continuing to threaten other HISD schools is an indication that either the commissioner just doesn’t comprehend the level of trauma the entire city suffered in the aftermath of Harvey or that he is intent on misusing his misplaced authority to play games with the state’s largest independent school district. Shame on him!”
Here are the criteria TEA established to get an exemption from ratings. Campuses will be evaluated under the Hurricane Harvey Provision if they meet at least one of the following criteria:
- The campus identified 10 percent or more of enrolled students with specific crisis codes for displaced or homeless students. Campus enrollment is based on October snapshot data; OR
- The campus reported 10 percent or more of its teachers experienced homelessness due to Hurricane Harvey (as reported in a Homeless Survey announced Feb. 14, 2018); OR
- The campus was reported to TEA as closed for 10 or more instructional days due to Hurricane Harvey; OR
- The campus was reported to TEA as displaced due to Hurricane Harvey either because the student population was relocated to another geographic location (at least through winter break) or the student population was required to share its own campus facility with the students of another campus closed as a direct result of Hurricane Harvey (at least through winter break).
Note that these are draft rules which will be open for public comment on June 8, but there is no indication at this point of any significant changes expected.