A lawsuit filed by Texas public school districts against the Texas Education Agency’s proposed revision of the school accountability rating system has clocked its first court victory. Late last week, a Travis County judge temporarily blocked TEA from releasing this year’s school ratings, which would have the revised standards retroactively applied to the 2022-2023 school year.
This temporary injunction prohibits TEA and Education Commissioner Mike Morath from assigning new A-F school performance ratings until ordered, with a trial date set for Feb. 12.
In a statement, TEA said it plans to appeal the decision: “This ruling completely disregards the laws of this state and for the foreseeable future, prevents any A-F performance information from being issued to help millions of parents and educators improve the lives of our students. The A-F system has been a positive force in Texas public education, supporting improved outcomes for students across the state, especially those most vulnerable.”
As we reported in August, seven school districts initially filed a lawsuit against Morath, specifically requesting that TEA delay the implementation of a proposed “refresh” of the accountability system announced this spring. Since then, the number of plaintiffs has ballooned to more than 100.
Morath has said the updated A-F accountability system for Texas school districts is intended to raise the bar for schools to meet the college, career, and military readiness (CCMR) indicator. As KUT reports, in the past, a school district could earn an A rating if 60% of students were considered career and college ready. This year, TEA has proposed to raise the threshold to 88% for the top grade. This could have made campuses and districts that are actually performing better than previous years appear as though they are failing.
In their challenge of these revised ratings, districts have questioned the giant leap in the passing score cutoff, as well as the timing of the refresh, which is hot on the heels of the STAAR redesign and in the midst of ongoing legislative fights about private school vouchers.
Furthermore, they have objected to retroactively applying these new standards to grade a school year in which they were not in place.
“There was a lot of speculation that the changes to the system and when they were going to be published were absolutely playing straight into the governor’s voucher push,” said Texas AFT’s Kelsey Kling in an interview with KERA.
As we’ve seen in the state takeover of B-rated Houston ISD, the stakes of school accountability ratings couldn’t be higher. There’s more to come in this fight, and we will be watching.