Texas public schools received letter grades from the state Thursday for the first time — marks that are accountability ratings based largely on STAAR test results taken during the 2018-2019 school year.
Several Tarrant-area school districts received an overall A rating, including Aledo, Carroll, Grapevine-Colleyville, Hurst-Euless-Bedford, Mansfield and Northwest. The Arlington, Birdville, Crowley and Keller school districts received B ratings.
On social media, Crowley schools announced the district improved from a C rating last year.
“We are incredibly proud of the academic gains our students are making at every level,” Crowley Superintendent Michael McFarland said in a press release.
The district experienced a 13-point jump, bringing its score from a 70 to 83.
“These standardized tests are important, but they are just one of the many tools we use in CISD to provide all students with excellence in education.,” McFarland said.
The Fort Worth school district, the largest in Tarrant County, received a C.
Fort Worth schools Superintendent Kent P. Scribner said the letter grade alone doesn’t tell the district’s story because it barely missed earning a B.
Scribner said the district’s overall score has been improving. This year, Fort Worth schools earned a 79.
“The trajectory is heading in the right direction,” Scribner said. “Where we need to focus is providing tangible support to our lower performing schools.”
Tarrant-area school ratings
Last year, districts received letter grades, but schools received “Met Standard, Met Alternative Standard or Improvement Required,” ratings.
Scribner said while many educators are wary of the changing system, the letter grade system is one he is familiar with and embraces.
“I think it is a good thing,” he said.
Fort Worth schools ratings
In Fort Worth schools, several campuses made gains and 11 earned A ratings, but 18 campuses received F grades. Nine sixth-grade centers and middle schools received the lowest ratings — a sign that something needs to change at that level, Scribner said.
Scribner said the district is making immediate changes to garner academic improvements, including filling some top leadership slots in upcoming weeks. He said the district is undergoing an overhaul that includes finding a new chief academic officer, new assistant superintendent of curriculum instruction and a new executive director of bilingual education.
Scribner said the schools earning the highest ratings reflected successful special interest programs such as the new I.M. Terrell Academy for STEM and Visual Performing Arts, Texas Academy of Biomedical Sciences, the Young Men’s Leadership Academy and the Young Women’s Leadership Academy.
Scribner said academic efforts at Bonnie Brae and Westcliff elementary schools will be studied and replicated because they show how campuses serving large populations of low-income students can excel.
“It can be done,” Scribner said, adding: “What can we learn from those schools? Those schools are providing tangible and deep level support to their students in the area of curriculum and instruction.”
Arlington school ratings
In Arlington, five schools received an A, 19 a B and four an F.
The A-rated schools were Arlington Collegiate High School, Young Junior High, Butler Elementary, Duff Elementary and Fitzgerald Elementary. The F-rated schools were Berry Elementary, Short Elementary, Speer Elementary and Wimbish Elementary.
Spokeswoman Anita Foster said the district is not considering Wimbish Elementary an F because the ratings do not reflect the school’s change to Wimbish World Language Academy. Students at Wimbish World Language Academy can enroll in English-Spanish or English-French dual-language program.
“While we received a higher grade than last year, the results are just a snapshot of how our schools are performing, not a picture of our student experience,” Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos said in a written statement. “Our priority has always been and will continue to be making sure that all of our students graduate exceptionally prepared for college, career and citizenship.”
Texas school ratings
Meanwhile, 3.6% received a D compared to about 8% last year, and 1.2% earned an F versus about 3% in 2018.
Out of the 8,838 campuses, 19.8% earned an A and 37.1% earned a B. About 8% received a D and 4.5% earned an F.
STAAR test results improved slightly statewide according to a comparison of spring test results, with 23% of students tested mastering grade level versus 21% of students in 2018. Similarly, 49% of students tested in 2019 met grade level versus 47% of students in 2018.
“This year’s STAAR scores demonstrate Texas students are learning more in the core subjects designed to set them up for future success,” Education Commissioner Mike Morath said in a news release. “More students are meeting grade-level expectations in Texas, and this is because of the incredibly talented work of our educators in classrooms around the state.”
The letter grades are calculated by evaluating schools in three areas: student achievement, school progress and their ability to close gaps around disparities that may exist for different racial groups, economically disadvantaged students and more.
A school may earn an overall rating of an F for five years and a D for six before there’s mandatory state intervention.
Zeph Capo, president of Texas American Federation of Teachers and the Houston Federation of Teachers, said in a statement that it is absurd for the state to be able to take over an entire district based on individual campuses’ ratings.
“It is no surprise to us that the oligarchs will fight desperately for unelected and unaccountable governance, and we fear their agenda will be focused on the unbridled privatization of our public schools,” Capo said. “Teachers and parents know best what works for their neighborhood schools.”
Morath said determining what constitutes an A rating was largely based on of the state’s “60x30” plan, which aims for at least 60% of Texans ages 25-34 with a certificate or degree by 2030.
“You have to recognize that even though that does not sound rigorous — because we’re all used to being graded on 90 out of 100 is an A and 80 to 89 is a B — we as a state have never approached anything close to 60% of our students achieving post secondary outcomes,” Morath said.
In 2017, only about 43% of young Texans achieved those outcomes.
Student performance was still relatively flat this year, and Morath attributed the lack of growth, in part, to a complex education system that can take years for results to be evident.
“We could, in public education, execute every reform needed to transform the lives of children, and execute those reforms with perfection, and complete them all tomorrow,” Morath said, “and it would still take about a decade for anyone to notice.”
There were more than 5.3 million students attending more than 8,700 public schools and charters in Texas, according to the TEA’s 2017 snapshot.