This past Monday, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) released 2021-2022 school year accountability ratings for each of Texas’ 1,195 districts and 8,451 campuses. This is the first time since 2019 that TEA has published accountability ratings because of the COVID-19 disaster declaration during the previous two school years.
While TEA did release scores this year, schools that scored below 70, equivalent to a “D” letter grade or lower, will officially receive a “Not Rated” designation for the 2021-2022 school year. This is because of a special carve-out in Senate Bill 1365 to help schools ease back into the accountability system. Districts that would have received a “D” letter grade or lower will still receive the targeted grants offered to “low-performing” school districts but will not be subject to the TEA interventions typically brought on by such a grade.
TEA reported that 25% of districts and 33% of campuses improved their letter grade from their 2018-2019 scores. A greater percentage of districts (33.1%) received “A” ratings this past year than in 2018-2019 (25.3%), and a lower percentage of districts (3.5%) scored a “D” rating or lower this past year than in 2019-2018 (4.8%).
Despite these significant improvements in accountability scores since before the pandemic, state leaders like Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick support private school vouchers, which would defund public education and divert those funds to private schools. Abbott’s hand-picked TEA commissioner, Mike Morath, praised public school teachers as the driving force behind these improved education scores, but Abbott himself supports policies harmful to public education and refuses to make the necessary investments to raise teacher salaries.
TEA’s accountability scores are far from a perfect measure of school success. Standardized STAAR test results, which have been proven to be a poor measure of academic progress, are a primary input into a school’s accountability rating. Accountability scores have been used as a justification to oust democratically elected school boards and to shut down schools instead of improving them. But the fact that school districts are improving according to the TEA’s own metrics begs the question: Why does Gov. Abbott want to enact policies that would only weaken our improving public schools.