State accountability rating changes pending while TEA actively evaluates districts

Published: Apr. 23, 2023 at 10:49 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 25, 2023 at 10:38 AM CDT
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(KWTX/Making The Grade) Five years after its introduction, the Texas Education Agency is refreshing its accountability rating system.

The system scores districts and school campuses handing down A-F letter grades each year, with 2020 and 2021 paused during the pandemic.

In the first Making the Grade segment, KWTX explained the three domains that make up a score.

While those domains are staying the same, how some of the calculations are done will change with the refresh.

The exact look of those changes, however are still pending.

“These are not final changes that we’ve been given from TEA it is the best information that we know as of today,” Dr. Deanna Lovesmith the Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning at Belton ISD explained to their Board of Trustees earlier this year.

STAAR testing and other evaluations for the rating are currently happening, or already passed, despite final changes and rules for the next five years not being released until August.

The ratings for the 2022-2023 school year are set to come out in September.

Timeline to consider Accountability Rating Changes for 2023-2028
Timeline to consider Accountability Rating Changes for 2023-2028(Staff)

This means districts are making adjustments based on preliminary data and hoping the changes they’re addressing ultimately come to fruition at the end of the summer.

“They’ll put the manual out for public comment, I don’t know if that will change anything but I’m going to just assume that that’s the manual, these are the procedures we’re following, this is how we are getting rated,” Denise Bell the director of accountability at Waco ISD says.

Assuming that the manual does stay the same, these are the proposed changes as schools understand them today:

District Rating Methodology:

According to the TEA, beginning in 2023, district ratings will be determined proportionally based on the scaled domain outcomes of their campuses, instead of based on the entire student population.

“The district rating will be more a reflection of all schools that have tested grades. The schools impact on the district rating will be in relation to the size of the campus,” Lovesmith explained.

Domain 1, Student Achievement:

In the first domain at the high school level, the state takes STAAR test results combined with a College Career and Military Readiness evaluations and graduation rates to calculate the domain score.

The cut points for STAAR and graduation rates are staying the same or changing only slightly to, “account for the impact of COVID-19 and the upcoming STAAR redesign”, according to the TEA in its preliminary framework outlines online.

However the CCMR cut scores are changing drastically.

“There are significant changes happening to CCMR,” Lovesmith told her board as she explained the redesign.

Five years ago, the TEA initially recommended 90% as the percentage of CCMR graduates that should generate an A, however they say very few campuses performed at that level at that time (the average performance in the baseline year was 47%), so the cut point was set at 60%.

Now, the state says CCMR performance has “skyrocketed” with average performance of 65% of graduates being ready for life after high school.

“With pre COVID to post COVID, they didn’t see dips in schools data so that is one reason, I’m sure among many others that they have raised those numbers,” Holly Moore, the Director of Accountability at Belton ISD told KWTX.

The Accountability Rating redesign now has the new “cut-score” as 88%.

The state says its analysis suggests that score will ensure 60% of graduates achieving initial post-secondary success.

“Technically it is harder [to achieve] but we’re being told that’s where we should be. That should be the expectation for all schools across the state,” Moore explained.

Both Moore and Bell say they think the new score is achievable for current and future students, however for this year’s rating, the state is using data from last year’s graduating class.

“Its last years data going into this year’s rating if that makes sense,” Moore said. “Its really hard to have a new rule put in place when you have no control over it.”

“We did not know that TEA would have new criteria or that the cuts would be raised so drastically when we had those students in the building last year,” Bell added.

Domain 2, School Progress:

Those changes to CCMR will affect scores in the second domain as well. The domain is broken up into part A and part B.

Part B compares schools to others with similar economically disadvantaged populations. Part of that equation includes CCMR and the same change in the cut score from Domain 1 will be applied here, as well.

Part A measures student growth by looking to see if a student performed better on the STAAR test then they did the year before.

Details are still limited on how student growth measurables will change but districts are optimistic.

“We don’t know what quite all is going to be in that however we do believe there will be more opportunities to count students for growth. That’s a good thing,” Lovesmith said.

Domain 3, Closing the Gaps:

The last domain breaks students up into groups based on things like race, language and special needs. The groups are measured through four categories and the more student groups that that meet a specific target in academic achievement, graduation rate, English language proficiency and CCMR, the more points the district gets.

In the refresh, things are changing.

“The final piece is by far the most challenging because its where we have the absolute least amount of clarity,” Lovesmith said.

“They’re looking at new scoring in Domain Three. Before, you either yes made the target or no you didn’t make the target so it was 0 points or 1 point. Now its 0 to 4 points and we’re being told you need at least a 2 to do well in that area. But we really don’t know what that means exactly. Honestly we’re just waiting to see what the targets are and how the targets will affect us,” Moore explained.

On top of these changes and the challenges they bring to districts in the state, there’s an additional piece plaguing schools. A new standardized test, known as STAAR 2.0 is getting rolled out at the exact same time. KWTX will explain how the test is changing in its next Making the Grade segment.