School district ratings reveal continuing trend of charters underperforming traditional public schools

CONTACT:  Rob D’Amico, 512-627-1343

Texas AFT President Louis Malfaro commented today on the release of school accountability ratings by the Texas Education Agency:


We’re pleased to see a decline in the number of districts rated as “Improvement Required,” but it’s also clear that charter schools continue to underperform traditional public schools, since charter districts are more than three times as likely to fail state achievement standards. (2.7 percent of traditional public school districts were rated Improvement Required, versus 9.5 percent of charter districts.) When you dive down into the individual campuses that were rated, charter campuses were twice as likely to get the low rating. (4.2 percent of campuses within school districts were labeled Improvement Required, versus 8.5 percent of charter campuses.)

The charter school ratings this year continue a trend of these districts underperforming traditional public schools. Last year charters were just under three times as likely to fail state standards.

While the aggregate data point to persistent weakness in the charter sector, we stress that our state’s accountability ratings are still based overwhelmingly on unreliable standardized test scores, which aren’t an accurate way to gauge the true academic performance and improvement for most of our campuses or individual students. It’s not just educators who recognize the significant faults in the system. A State Board of Education Survey of 27,000 Texans last year found that 67 percent of parents and community leaders disagreed that the accountability system works well to measure student growth, and a large majority (56 percent) disagreed or were neutral (18 percent) on using testing as a component of school ratings.

Ironically, while Houston ISD has been targeted by the Texas Education Agency for possible state takeover next year if performance at every one of a handful of campuses rated Improvement Required does not improve, 33 HISD campuses–more than for any other district or charter in the state–received every category of academic distinction that TEA awards. This is not the picture of a failing district that some would like to paint.

The use of Improvement Required ratings of a few campuses to justify severe state sanctions applied potentially to an entire district is a key reason why lawmakers and citizens have increasing doubts about the validity and misuse of the whole state rating scheme based largely on results of standardized state tests

The simplistic ratings system is slated to get even worse, using A-F labeling, starting with districts in August 2018 and then extending to campus-level ratings in August 2019. Fortunately, before the A-F campus-level ratings go into effect, the Legislature will get another chance to rethink and revise state accountability standards in the January 2019 regular session.

Discontent with the ratings scheme is compounded by the recognition that the state share of funding for school districts has shrunk to about 31 percent, even as districts like Houston ISD are called upon to educate growing numbers of high-need students who, for example, are economically disadvantaged or English Language Learners.

Texas American Federation of Teachers represents more than 65,000 teachers, paraprofessionals, support personnel, and higher-education employees across the state. Texas AFT is affiliated with the 1.6-million-member American Federation of Teachers.