Texas district leaders celebrate after judge presses pause on TEA’s new A-F ratings

Representatives from school districts around Texas gathered at the Travis County Courthouse on Friday to celebrate a ruling made by a judge Thursday night.

Under a temporary injunction, the TEA cannot release the A-F Accountability Ratings for the 2022-23 school year.

This comes after more than 100 school districts sued the TEA over the new performance ratings.

"This is not a final victory lap by any stretch," said Bobby Ott, Temple ISD Superintendent. "It's really the initial step in a long process with the ultimate goal of being accountability reform."

Essentially a grade on schools themselves, A-F Ratings are based on multiple measures including graduation rates and college readiness. According to the TEA, the system was due for a 'refresh' this fall.

However, educators argued the new ratings wouldn’t be an accurate reflection on school performance and noted districts weren’t given a heads up on what standards to push for. 

"This system that was being rolled out was going to paint a false narrative about schools and districts," said Cissy Reynolds-Perez, Kingsville ISD Superintendent. "Even though they were improving, because of the changes in the scores during the game, that was going to make schools and districts show that they were declining when in fact they were not."

The TEA plans to appeal the decision immediately. A spokesperson for TEA released a statement.

"This ruling completely disregards the laws of this state and for the foreseeable future, prevents any A-F performance information from being issued to help millions of parents and educators improve the lives of our students. The A-F system has been a positive force in Texas public education, supporting improved outcomes for students across the state, especially those most vulnerable. There have been many constructive conversations about the methodology with districts and among legislators. Though about 10% of our school system leaders disagreed with the methods used in A-F enough to file this lawsuit, the complete absence of public performance information means that 100% of our school systems cannot take actions based on these ratings, stunting the academic growth of millions of Texas kids."

"We equate it to playing a football game. And after the football game has ended, the goalpost has been moved, and they let you know that the two touchdowns that you just made don't count anymore," said Annette Tielle, Del Valle ISD Superintendent. "We are preparing our students for a goal that hasn't been set. We're preparing our students for an accountability assessment and test where we don't really know what the matrix is going to look like. So how do you prepare for something when it is so unclear and nontransparent?"

According to the temporary injunction order, a trial for the case is set for Feb. 12, 2024.