Texas public schools are getting letter grades this year. Here’s what it means

Texas school districts and campuses will receive accountability ratings that reflect letter grades A through F.
Texas school districts and campuses will receive accountability ratings that reflect letter grades A through F. Star-Telegram archives

Texas students will be arriving to their classes as districts await letter grades from the state — marks that aren’t student report cards, but accountability ratings based largely on STAAR test results taken during the spring.

These grades will be the first time the Texas Education Agency gives individual campuses A through F letter grades.

“I feel like most parents don’t know,” said Tiffany Rogers, president of the Fort Worth ISD Council of PTAs, adding that many families may not have a firm grasp of what these grades mean.

This move continues the phase in of Texas’ latest accountability system. Texas school districts are essentially starting classes as they await official report cards from the state that assigns A-F ratings for each district and each campus.

The TEA said the tentative date for the ratings to be released is Aug. 15.

Last year, districts received letter grades, but schools received “Met Standard, Met Alternative Standard or Improvement Required,” ratings.

Rogers said school communities need to come together and get involved to work at improving schools that don’t receive the highest ratings. She worries families will leave schools when campuses earn less than an “A.”

“People are invested in their kids’ future, which they should be,” Rogers said.

School accountability 2019

The ratings are calculated in three areas: student achievement, school progress and closing the gaps. The state’s formula includes STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) tests and the end-of-course exams.

The SAT, ACT, dual credit and industry-based certifications are included in the calculations as is military enlistment of students. Graduation rates, student growth on the STAAR and school progress are also factors.

The state also looks at the performance of student groups by race/ethnicity, special education, mobility, English learners and economic disadvantage.

Districts and campuses that receive accountability ratings of A, B, C, or D can earn distinctions in several areas, including English language arts, math, science and social studies. Districts or campuses that are rated “F” can’t get a distinction.

The TEA and school districts have worked to inform families about the rating system.

The state has posted videos and documents explaining the rating system to the public on the TEA website.

At Mansfield schools, the community has had several opportunities to learn about TEA’s new accountability ratings system. Last year, when ratings were announced, district leaders explained the A-F accountability system.

The new rating system was also explained in board meetings to further inform parents about what to expect, according to Mansfield schools.

At West Handley Elementary School, principal Julie Moynihan makes hard choices on where to apply the meager amount of Title 1 money that her school receives.

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Diane Smith, a graduate from the University of Texas at Austin, has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 1997. Smith, who has covered municipal government, immigration and education, has won multiple awards for reporting, most recently as part of a Star-Telegram team recognized by the Headliners Foundation of Texas for coverage of child abuse and Fort Worth’s Las Vegas Trail area.