On August 8th, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) released 2014 Texas Public School Accountability Ratings, for Texas public schools. Understanding these ratings can be confusing, but overall the news is positive.
Based on the new standards set by TEA Commissioner Michael Williams, the vast majority of our public schools are meeting the state’s expectations for educating Texas students by passing all four of the required indices under the state’s newly developed accountability system (see below).
The Top-Level Numbers
According to the ratings, 949 of the state’s 1,025 school districts rated (92.6%) and 6,859 of 7,986 campuses (85.9%) “Met Standard,” while 157 of the state’s 202 charter operators rated (77.7%) and 419 of 588 charter campuses rated (71.3%) Met Standard.
Some campuses received additional recognition by earning a “Distinction Designation,” awarded to Texas campuses achieving a high rating on one or more of the four indices. According to TEA’s Highlights document, a total of 4,422 (51.6%) of district and charter campuses received one or more Distinction Designation, while 400 (4.7%) district and charter campuses received every Distinction Designation for which they were eligible.
Areas for Improvement
Not all schools achieved the standards set by TEA. Exactly 76 public school districts (7.4%) and 651 campuses (8.2%) received an “Improvement Required” rating, meaning they failed to meet one or more TEA’s four indices. The total number of campuses failing to meet standard increased from last year, although the percentage of these campuses decreased from 9.1% in 2013 to 8.7% in 2014.
Meanwhile 35 charter operators (17.3%) and 99 charter campuses (16.8%) received an Improvement Required rating.
A Moving Target
Trying to compare results the previous year’s can be tricky as the passing levels are set by annually byTEA, and may change from year-to-year. So while districts appear to be holding the line compared to last year’s accountability results, which land within a few percentage points, it’s anybody’s guess as to whether and how much results will fluctuate over time.
The relationship between the continuously rising academic standards (i.e. what students are expected to learn) and the commissioner’s authority to set the passing “cut scores” on assessments and accountability system standards calls for a delicate balance, and the appearance of success or failure for the majority of Texas public schools depends on the stability and legitimacy of this process.
Additionally, the new indices continue to be heavily reliant on standardized test scores, although House Bill 5 (2013) directed TEA to minimize reliance on students’ test scores as part of the new accountability system. HB 5 also required districts to evaluate their own performance in community and student engagement, but those self-reported results are not reflected in TEA’s accountability system.
In summary, the new ratings system brings us mostly good news, but also many unanswered questions that will only be answered given due time, discussion among key stakeholder groups, and further analysis.