How Texas' New School Grading System Works

On Thursday, Texas will debut its new way of grading schools and school districts. It's part of an overhaul of the state's accountability system.

For almost a decade parents could check how good their children’s school was by its state rating. The best was exemplary. The worst was academically unacceptable.

Those ratings are now gone.

There’s a new state report card for schools and districts.

Shannon Housson is with the Texas Education Agency. He briefed reporters on a conference call.

“Every district and campus will be either ‘met standard’ or ‘improvement required.’”

There’s a third rating for alternative education.

But the vast majority of schools and districts will be marked as either “met standard” or not.

It’s not just that the terms are new. They’re based on an entirely new calculation.

Housson has a presentation with more than 20 slides to explain it to reporters.

“It’s not simple. But it’s hopefully understandable once we kind of get used to a new approach.”

The new approach measures schools in three areas. They’re called “indexes.” So, student test scores, student progress and closing performance gaps.

There’s a fourth one for high schools and districts. They also have a “graduation” index.

Schools and districts have to make certain scores on every single category to meet the standard.

If a school misses the target score in just one index, they’re marked as needs improvement.

But if a school scores really high in one area, they can get a “distinction” – for say outstanding work in math.

The state is using this new system when it releases the school ratings for 2013 Thursday.

But some school leaders like Houston Superintendent Terry Grier say they still don’t understand how it all works.

“We’re still a bit confused. We’re looking for clear definition and we don’t have that yet.”

Grier says they’re trying to be patient and wait and see what happens.

“Be frank, we still don’t know. We just got a new memo from the commissioner of education that says the state’s going to continue to make tweaks and changes. Hopefully before the school year starts in late August, early September, they’ll be a little clearer.”

Even as school leaders and parents get familiar with the new system, they shouldn’t get too attached.

In about three years, the state will launch new system again. That’s when school districts will get report cards with grades from A to F.

For more information, visit the Texas Education Agency’s website for frequently asked questions about the 2013 Accountability System.

Bio photo of Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for KUHF, including K-12 and higher education.

Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and regularly contributed to WLRN, the local NPR affiliate and Miami Herald news partner...