Sept. 22, 2023 - During its meeting Thursday, the Comal ISD Board of Trustees voted unanimously to join dozens of other Texas districts in a lawsuit filed against the Texas Education Agency (TEA) over proposed changes made to the state’s accountability ratings system and the agency’s failure to adequately notify school districts of these changes.
“As most public school districts in the state, we believe in holding ourselves accountable and welcome the feedback that comes with assessments,” says Dr. John E. Chapman III, Comal ISD superintendent of schools. “However, changes proposed to the A-F rating will not adequately reflect the performance of our students. Essentially, the rules are being changed in the middle of the game.”
The lawsuit is based on Texas Education Code 39.0542 which requires the commissioner of education to provide school districts with a “simple, accessible” document explaining the accountability performance measures, methods and procedures that will be applied to their campus performance ratings.
While Texas school districts received this document, it contained the previous standards, not the new system that could be used. New accountability ratings were scheduled to be released on Sept. 28, based on adjusted criteria including a new threshold for college, career and military readiness scores, raising it from 60 percent to 88 percent to earn an A rating.
On Sept. 12, the TEA announced that the scores will be delayed one month to allow for “further re-examination of the baseline data” used in calculations, according to the news release.
The lawsuit, which specifically names Mike Morath, the commissioner of education, is seeking one of two options for the accountability scores:
- For the commissioner to issue ratings for the 2022-23 school year and the 2023-24 school year using the existing system.
- For the commissioner to issue no ratings for the two school years.
On top of the proposed changes to the A through F system, the TEA also redesigned the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) exam this past school year. The biggest change to the STAAR was how students took the test. Instead of by pen and paper, it was given online in a digital format with students using electronic devices. The updated STAAR also included the addition of 14 question types and written responses across all grade levels and content.
Major changes to the STAAR test along with pending changes to the accountability system occurring at the same time are considered unprecedented in education and leave school districts with the appearance of under-performance despite making improvements.
The TEA implemented the A-F rating system in the 2017-18 school year. The rating system looks at student achievement, student progress, closing performance gaps, postsecondary readiness and community and student engagement, relying heavily on performance measures based on the STAAR exam.