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Pflugerville ISD joins lawsuit taking issue with new A-F school ratings

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Pflugerville Independent School District has joined a lawsuit against the Texas Education Commissioner, saying the new rules for how the state will grade schools and districts were not provided before the school year they will be applied to.

The 2023 A-F accountability ratings will go public on Sept. 28. The lawsuit asks a judge to prevent the Texas Education Agency from releasing scores that use the newest metrics.

Seven school districts, including Del Valle ISD, are already a part of the lawsuit alleging the TEA violated state law by not providing districts with the new methods and metrics earlier.

The districts said new methods will dramatically decrease campus and district scores statewide.

“I’d recommend that we go ahead and join the lawsuits,” Pflugerville Superintendent Dr. Douglas Killian said during an Aug. 17 meeting. “It’s time for folks to hear that the fairness of the accountability system is in question right now.”

TEA officials said they can’t comment on ongoing legal matters.

The changes to how schools and districts are graded are being discussed in school board meetings across the state.

During an Aug. 31 board meeting, Austin ISD’s accountability and assessment director told trustees if the new metrics were applied to 2022 campus data, more than 20% of Austin ISD campuses would have lower scores.

Screenshot from Austin ISD’s Aug. 31 school board presentation on the A-F refresh. (Austin ISD)

District officials said preliminary data released by the TEA suggests the rule changes will more negatively impact historically low-performing schools in Austin ISD.

“I think we are going to see statewide probably a decline in scores, and a decline in ratings that will be you know across the board. It’s not just going to be our district,” AISD Accountability and Assessment Executive Director Carolyn Hanschen said.

More than 200 school districts wrote a letter to Commissioner Mike Morath in March requesting the delay of the A-F accountability changes, including Austin ISD and several other central Texas school districts.  

“The A-F system was designed to make it easier for the public to understand how schools are truly performing. But increasing the cut score for A for CCMR by almost 47% in a single year will create the misconception that high-performing schools are drastically declining,” the letter stated.

A bipartisan group of 26 lawmakers also sent a letter to Morath in May asking him to reconsider the changes.

What’s different with A-F ratings?

The A-F ratings are based on multiple factors — including graduation rates, the number of students who are college, career and military-ready as well as State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) results.

In an overview of the changes posted to the agency’s website, it said: “The refreshed A-F system will make adjustments to better reflect the three objectives of the system: rigor for students, fairness for districts and campuses, and transparency for parents and the public.”

“As schools are improving parents need to know that and as schools are not and regressing parents need to know that as well,” Morath said in May.

Under the newest methods of the A-F accountability rating, many high schools would need higher graduation rates and more students considered college, military and career-ready paths to maintain their campus scores.

The previous scales would have given a campus an A if 60% of its students were college, career and military-ready. However, under the new metrics, a campus would need 88% of its students to be college, career and military-ready to get a score of an A.

Under the new rules, high schools would need a 98% graduation rate in order to get an A rating. Previously, a 96% graduation rate would have resulted in an A.

Along with new metrics for judging A-F ratings, the grades will also factor in the results of the re-designed STAAR test for the first time.

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