Texas lawmakers pass bill to change how the state grades schools

May 29, 2017
Rep. Diego Bernal, D-San Antonio, helped draft the most recent version of House Bill 22 which would scale back the A-F accountability system. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Heeding the concerns of school officials, the Legislature passed a bill that would scale back the way the state grades school districts and schools.

The changes will happen for districts next year and for schools in 2019.

“You know that most of the schools and districts in your districts were not happy with the implementation, not because it was inaccurate but because it did not account the effort of those schools,” said Rep. Diego Bernal, D-San Antonio, as he laid out the most recent changes on the House floor to House Bill 22 on Sunday.

READ: Austin district calls on lawmakers to repeal A-F school rating system

The House and Senate on Sunday compromised on the language in HB 22, originally filed by Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston. If approved by Gov. Greg Abbott, the bill will reduce the number of categories from five to three under which school districts and campuses are evaluated.

Those categories would measure how well students perform on state standardized tests; how well students improve compared to similar school districts and campuses; and how well school districts and schools close the academic gap between different student populations, based on race, income, learning disability and whether the student has moved from school to school.

Under the bill, school districts and schools would also receive an overall grade.

Casey McCreary with the Texas Association of School Administrators, which has been critical of the current A-F system, said that the group was pleased with the bill’s effort to delay the campus ratings and differentiate between a D and F grade, but was disappointed with not delaying the implementation of district ratings.

Proponents say that the current A-F system is comprehensive and allows the public to better understand how their schools perform. Under the previous system, still in place, school districts and campuses each year get a grade of either ‘meets state requirements’ or not.

Critics say that the A-F system, which was approved by the Legislature in 2015, is vague and unfairly penalizes school districts with high numbers of low-income students.

Many of them were also concerned that the A-F system relied too much on state standardized tests. The bill would put less emphasis on test scores for high schools and allow some schools to develop a part of the accountability system they’d be graded under.