Per state legislation under House Bill 22, the Texas Education Agency (“TEA”) released its second set of letter grades for all public school districts and charter networks in the state of Texas as well as its first set of campus letter grades. Some key takeaways at the state and local level:
· At the state level, in 2019 65% of students were in seats graded “A” or “B” vs. 10% graded “D” or “F” (see Exhibit 9).
· At the state level, roughly 400,000 more students, or 7.5% of total state enrollment, attended “A” and “B” campuses than in 2018, while roughly 140,000 fewer students, or 2.6% of total state enrollment, attended “D” and “F” campuses (see Exhibit 10).
· At the Dallas County level, in 2019 roughly 46,000 more students, or 9% of total enrollment, attended “A” and “B” campuses than in 2018 while roughly 30,000 fewer students, or 6% of total enrollment, attended “D” and “F” campuses. 61% of seats are now “A” or “B” in Dallas County (see Exhibits 11a and 11b).
· Of the six large (>50,000 students) urban districts in Texas (which collectively educate over 634,000 students, or 12% of the state), five districts (Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Houston ISD and San Antonio ISD) received a “B” letter grade from the state while the remaining district (Fort Worth ISD) received a “C”. San Antonio ISD led all major districts in growth for 2018-19, increasing by 9 percentile points vs. the prior year, followed by Dallas ISD at 5 percentile points and Houston and Ft. Worth ISD’s at 4 percentile points each.
· In Dallas ISD, there are now 16,600 fewer students attending “F” campuses versus 2013, the largest reduction in “F” or “Improvement Required” seats within both Dallas County districts and among large urban districts statewide (see Exhibit 12).
· Mesquite, Duncanville, Cedar Hill, Lancaster, and Arlington ISDs moved up from “C” to “B” districts. DeSoto ISD moved up from a “D” to a “C” district. No local Dallas County ISD’s declined.
· 79% of the students attending Dallas County “F” schools were in elementary school, which is encouraging given the continuing regional expansion of ACE and the significant amount of funding made available by House Bill 3 in 2019 towards early grades improvement for such strategies as full-day PreK, extended school year, and required literacy training for all Grades K-3 teachers statewide by 2022 (see Exhibit 13).
· Prior to the regional implementation of the ACE program across 30 campuses within four separate districts (where effective teachers are identified and financially incented to move to struggling schools), 80% of ACE campuses were rated as a “D” or “F” by state accountability standards. In 2019, 48% of those same campuses reflected ratings of “A” or “B”, with only 7% failing to meet state standards (see Exhibit 14).
· View a map of each campus with their accompanying A-F rating here: https://commitpartnership.org/dashboard/visualizations/2019-texas-education-agency-a-f-ratings-by-campus
In reviewing the state’s accountability metrics, it is important to note two things:
· Texas’s public school districts and public charter networks together collectively educate over 5.4 million students across grades PreK through 12. Public schools (both traditional and charter) educate over 90% of the students within Texas, and the state’s total PK-12 population represents roughly 10% of the nation’s public school enrollment. What happens within public schools in Texas, and the progress its schools are making, remains critically important to the future of both Texas and the U.S.
· An A-F grading system, which has been adopted in 15 U.S. states, is not without controversy, and educational stakeholders have a variety of conflicting and often strong views on its efficacy, appropriateness and fairness. While the current system is in place, however, it is worthwhile to note what the data is indicating and what progress is being made.
State of Texas Accountability for School Districts/Charter Networks 2018-19
The grading system required by 2015 legislation was in contrast to the prior TEA accountability system where districts and campuses either “Met Standard” (roughly 95%+ met this benchmark) or were deemed “Improvement Required”. The use of “distinctions” for districts and campuses were instead used in an attempt to publicly convey differences among the 95%+ of districts/campuses receiving the Met Standard rating.
A summary of the new district/charter network A-F grades issued by the state and the range of income demographics for each grade assigned can be found in the following Exhibit 1:
Points worth noting from state data include:
· While higher scoring districts tended to be more affluent and larger than districts with lower scores, districts of every economic status and size scored A’s under the accountability system while a number of more affluent districts were assigned C’s, D’s, and F’s. This was due in part to a significant part of state accountability rewarding year-over-year growth and/or performance relative to a district’s or campus’ demographic peers.
· The highest poverty ISD’s in Texas that received an A grade included Valley View ISD (92% economically disadvantaged), Brownsville ISD (88%), Roma ISD (87%), Eagle Pass ISD (81%). The highest poverty districts in North Texas to receive an A were Princeton ISD (58% economically disadvantaged) and Hurst Euless Bedford ISD (56%).
· Only 1% of districts, educating just 0.1% of the state’s students, received an F grade.
· 402 campuses, or 5% of all campuses statewide, received the state’s “F” or “Improvement Required” rating, roughly the same as the prior year and notably down from 9% in 2014.
· 21% of all campuses statewide received 90 or more accountability points, which would be equivalent to an “A” grade.
The chart found in Exhibit 2 on the following page reflects the range of district accountability scores relative to district poverty, showing that in general as districts get poorer, the range of accountability scores widens…however, maximum and minimum scores indicate that every grade was received across all ranges of district poverty. A scatterplot analysis of this same data can be found in the Appendices.
Overview of Major Urban School Districts in Texas
Of the six large (>50,000 students) urban districts in Texas (which collectively educate over 634,000 students, or 12% of the state), five districts (Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Houston ISD and San Antonio ISD) received a “B” letter grade from the state while the remaining district (Fort Worth ISD) received a “C”.
· Per Exhibit 9, five urban districts saw an increase in their TEA accountability rating, with San Antonio ISD leading all major districts in growth for 2018-19, increasing by 9 percentile points vs. the prior year, followed by Dallas ISD at 5 percentile points and Houston and Ft. Worth ISD’s at 4 percentile points each. Austin ISD, the lowest poverty district among the six, did not increase its accountability points but continued to maintain the highest rating among its peers at 89 percentile points.
· In terms of the percent of a district’s campuses that received an accountability score of 90 points or above (equivalent to an A grade under A-F), 21.0% of Houston ISD campuses and 19.8% of El Paso ISD campuses attained an A rating, the highest percentage among large urban districts and consistent with the 21.1% of campuses rated A across the state.
· Frisco ISD’s 59 campuses received a score of 90 points or above and represented the highest absolute number of “A” campuses in the state, exceeding Houston ISD’s 57 campuses (despite the fact that Houston has more than three times the enrollment). Frisco’s economic disadvantage and English learner percentages approximate only 11% and 6%, respectively.
A comparison of the state’s major urban districts also reflects a wide variance (from 3.5% to as high as 17.2%) in the number of campuses receiving the state’s “F” or Improvement Required (“IR”) designation for school year 2018-19. Several points from Exhibits 10 and 11 on the following page are worth noting:
With only 8 of its 226 campuses (3.5%) rated IR, Dallas ISD’s current IR percentage is about half that of Austin ISD (6.7%) and less than that of Houston ISD (7.7%) despite having higher levels of economically disadvantaged and English learner students.
As reflected in Exhibit 11, since 2014 Dallas ISD has reduced its number of IR campuses by 81% (43 campuses to 8), reflecting the largest reduction of any major urban district, followed by significant reductions within Houston ISD (51%) and Ft. Worth ISD (25%). While all of DISD’s IR campuses from last year met standard or were closed his year, 8 new campuses (largely elementary schools) went on the list.
Use of Strategic Teacher Staffing to Substantially Reduce Low Performing Campuses
One of the major drivers of IR campus reduction within several regional districts has been their decision to systemically and strategically staff a portion of their more effective educators at their most challenged campuses while concurrently lengthening the school day and adding additional resources. This program, known as “ACE “within Dallas ISD, Garland ISD and Richardson ISD, and “Leadership Academies” within Ft. Worth ISD, has resulted in 25 of 27 (93%) multi-year IR campuses across districts going off the state’s Improved Required list (see Exhibit 12). Within Dallas and Fort Worth ISD campuses, 17 of their 18 turnaround campuses went off the state’s Improvement Required list after the first year of implementation. This year, 13 of those campuses received an accountability score equivalent to either an “A” or a “B”. Two other districts (Richardson and Garland ISD) implemented ACE across six additional campuses in Fall 2018 (with all improving their accountability score in Year 1 with none were graded “F”). Several other districts statewide have been awarded TEA planning grants to help implement ACE as early as Fall 2019.
Overview of Major Dallas County Districts/Public Charter Networks
Dallas County public school districts and charter networks educate over 510,000 students annually across grades PreK thru 12th, equaling roughly 10% of the state. The collective level of economic disadvantage (72% vs. 59%) and English learners (31% vs. 19%) within Dallas County versus the state overall is significantly greater, yet the majority (14 out of 15) of Dallas County’s traditional districts and larger charter networks (i.e. those educating 5,000 students or more in the County) received a grade of “A” or “B” for the 2018-19 school year. Additional points worth noting include:
· Highland Park ISD, Coppell ISD and Sunnyvale ISD’s all ranked in the top 3% of districts across the state with all campuses scoring 95% or above. Plano ISD, another Commit partner in Collin County, also achieved an “A” district distinction.
· Six other districts (Richardson, Carrollton Farmers Branch, Garland, Irving, Mesquite and Uplift Education) all reflected high B’s (87%+), scoring just short of an “A” distinction, despite significant economic disadvantage roughly equaling, or in some cases well exceeding, the average poverty for the state of 59%.
· While Highland Park, Coppell and Sunnyvale maintained high levels of performance, 10 other districts/networks reflected notable positive growth in their accountability points from TEA vs. the year prior, led by DeSoto ISD (up 12 points), Duncanville (up 11 points) and Mesquite (up 8 points). Five districts (Cedar Hill, DeSoto, Duncanville, Lancaster and Mesquite) all improved their letter grades year-over-year based on their growth in accountability points.
Total ISD or large charter network campuses rated “Improvement Required” in Dallas County declined again slightly in 2018-19, falling to just 13 campuses among the region’s larger districts/networks (declining 1 net campus from 2017-18).