State agency gives TMISD a C in new rating system


On Wednesday, August 15, 2018, every school located in Texas received a single letter rating from A-F to represent their school’s grading system. The letter grade represents how their students perform on the state standardized tests, whether they are ready for college and careers, the amount of improvement the students accomplish on the required state tests and how much schools are raising the scores for students with special needs and English language learners. All these categories combined reflect the A-F grading system.

The Tuloso-Midway ISD received a C, which means a grade from 70-79. The rating C is defined as acceptable performance, which means the districts serve many students fairly well but lacks the needed help for students who need additional support to succeed academically. Over 100 districts that were affected by Hurricane Harvey received special safeguards against sub-par academic ratings.

The calculation behind the overall grade is 70 percent based on the student achievement and progress categories, with the state only counting the better score of the two categories. The other category relates to the boosting of the special needs individual grades, which makes up the other 30 percent.

State officials argue that the new grading system for school districts is more transparent than it should be. The Texas Education Agency created a website that allows parents to look up their child’s school and immediately see a letter grade as well as the reasoning and calculations behind it.

Former Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams, who had Texas leaning toward an A-F rating system in 2013, said that the ratings would “kick-start the conversation around school quality.” Williams is currently the board chairman of Texas Aspires, an advocacy group that supports stricter measures for students and schools in the state of Texas.

Some school superintendents and educator advocates argue that state officials are cramming numerous important categories into a single letter grade to represent an entire school or district, which may mislead parents about the operation and grading system of that particular school. Since last year, more than 50 school districts in Texas are including restrictions beyond state standardized test scores, such as availability of student clubs and parent survey results.

A release from Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment, which opposes high-stakes standardized tests, reads “This system is designed to make parents angry at schools and districts when their fury should be directed at elected and appointed officials who pushed this system designed to shame public education.”

Majority of schools that received Ds and Fs were districts that have higher rates of economically disadvantaged or low-income students than the state average. Every school district with a rate of low-income students higher than 30 percent received an overall rating of C, D or F.

“There’s some level of understanding about what A-F means, and that’s part of the reason of what makes this easy for families,” said Penny Schwinn, TEA deputy commissioner, at a briefing for business and legislative officials on Tuesday, August 14, 2018.