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Texas Law Now Lets Some Districts Grade Themselves

Texas' school districts hate their state's report cards for districts.

When the state rolled out its new accountability system under the Every Student Succeeds Act late last year, local superintendents en masse sent letters home to their students' parents telling them that the letter grade report cards were flawed, simplistic evaluations of their schools. (Texas' report card gives districts a grade based mostly on how they performed on the state's test known as STAAR.)

Now, some of the state's district administrators are about to get a reprieve, according to a recent story in the Houston Chronicle

Under a law passed by the legislature in 2017, districts that get special state approval can craft their own accountability system using several metrics, including student attendance, extracurricular activities, and discipline. The state will then use the district's own rating for up to half its final state rating.

State politicians and many civil rights activists have long been skeptical of districts rating themselves, arguing they're not likely to be objective. Similarly, districts, like states, have a difficult time collecting accurate information about what goes on in schools. This historically has limited the metrics officials can use when trying to design more comprehensive accountability systems. 

It's not clear if the state's new grading system would be compliant under ESSA. 

Meanwhile, the state's senators are devising a new school funding formula that would reward some schools with high test scores.

The Texas Education Agency said in a statement to the Houston Chronicle that officials are "still working with pilot districts to find the right approach to setting cut scores that reflect a shared rigorous expectation for students." The department added that it "isn't necessarily a goal to ensure consistency between state and local components."


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