Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, who authored SB 1365, said at the news conference that “what gets measured gets fixed.” He cited progress recorded by schools in the Greater Houston area’s Klein ISD, which received a B ranking. Eliminating D and F rankings will give schools some wiggle room to recover from the pandemic, Morath said. The TEA is typically required, under state law, to conduct interventions with lower-performing schools. But this year, the TEA will not directly intervene, per SB 1365. Instead, unrated schools will receive targeted grant funding and other forms of support in an effort to help improve students’ academic performance, Morath said. Accountability ratings were not issued in 2020 or 2021, due to the pandemic. Last year, all districts and campuses were labeled “Not Rated: Declared State of Disaster,” according to the TEA.
Three criteria—student achievement, school progress and closing the gaps—are used to determine the overall score for each district or campus.
For elementary and middle schools, student achievement is based entirely on the annual State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, which are administered in the spring. Students who took the test this year improved on the previous year’s scores, but test performance was still below prepandemic levels in math.
In addition to the STAAR, high school achievement is also determined by graduation rates and how well schools prepare their students for college, a career or the military.
School progress is calculated based on academic growth and relative performance. Academic growth measures how students improve over the years based on goals for each grade level.
Relative performance compares the performance of districts with similar poverty levels. The TEA reported that 18% of “high-poverty” schools received an A for the 2021-22 school year. To be considered a high-poverty school, at least 75% of its students must be eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, according to the Center for Education Statistics.
Closing the gaps
The third measure looks at student achievement and school progress in terms of disadvantaged groups of students, such as those learning English.
“There are certain gaps in achievement embodied in different groups of students,” Morath said. “And we need to make sure that we hold ourselves accountable for getting all of our children where they need to [be to] succeed.”