Many Texas students are back in the classroom this week just as some parents are learning about how their kids’ schools measure up. The Texas Education Agency recently released its annual school “report cards,” which is good news in some districts, and troubling in others.
Three education reporters are covering the story in different parts of the state: Claire McInerny reports for KUT in Austin; Camille Phillips reports for Texas Public Radio in San Antonio; and Laura Isensee reports for Houston Public Media.
The state ranks all school districts and schools on an A-F scale, which are mostly determined by students’ standardized test scores, McInerny says. The accountability system is 2 years old, and she says parents and students can check scores at texasschools.gov.
She says a lower ranking doesn’t always mean that the school is wholly bad.
“The criticism is you write off a school culture [with the rankings],” McInerny says.
And she says low student test scores might be a measure of a school’s limited financial resources, not students’ or teachers’ abilities.
In San Antonio, Phillips says some school districts resisted the new ranking system. She says Brian Woods, the superintendent of San Antonio’s largest district, Northside Independent School District, has spoken out against it.
“[He] has been an outspoken opponent of limiting a school district or a school to just a letter grade based on primarily standardized tests,” Phillips says.
In contrast, she says San Antonio ISD has “embraced” the new system.
In Houston, Isensee says she’s been looking at the correlation between poverty and school performance. That’s because some schools in less wealthy districts have been struggling, and are at risk of being penalized for continued poor performance.
“These letter grades were very closely watched,” Isensee says. “There are … some really high stakes attached to the grades if a school doesn’t pass for a certain number of years.”
She says four schools had to pass this year to avoid tough state penalties; one of them failed.
One of the penalties could be that the Texas education commissioner would take over Houston ISD, she says.
Listen to the rest of the story in the player above.
Written by Caroline Covington.