School district leaders criticize new STAAR test scoring system

Several Texas school districts are suing the Texas Education Agency for changing the accountability rating system

SAN ANTONIO – School districts across San Antonio are proud of improving STAAR test scores, but school district leaders say that growth won’t be reflected in their district-wide rating.

Several Texas school districts are suing the Texas Education Agency for changing the accountability rating system.

Dr. Jodi Spoor is in charge of the Southside ISD curriculum. She said the Texas Education Agency has moved the goal post for the district-wide accountability rating, which can affect a district’s funding and attention from the state.

“In 2022, a district could have gotten an A-rating and in 2023 actually done better, shown progress, but will receive a B rating,” Spoor said. “Now the scores are going to change. And I might have won the game then, but now I might not win the game because you changed my three points from my two points to one. So that’s frustrating.”

STAAR test scores will carry less weight, and college career military readiness and graduation rates will impact a district’s score more.

School district leaders argue it’s not fair because graduation rates are retroactive.

“It doesn’t help kids. It doesn’t help districts. And it seems incredibly punitive. So for that, we’re disappointed that they chose to do it that way instead of giving us time to grow into that which they’ve done in the past,” Spoor said.

Dr. Janis Jordan, who is in charge of the Northside ISD curriculum, said the district would have to pay closer attention to career certifications, dual credit classes and students joining the military.

“We know how the game has changed, or at least we (know) there’s a whole host of things that will look at perhaps flagging earlier. We have all kinds of systems that we use as red flags,” Jordan said.

Last year, STAAR testing was different — things like more open-ended questions, tighter timing and the test was on a computer instead of paper.

Despite the testing changes, Southside ISD and Northside ISD said they saw STAAR scores improve in math and reading.

“We’re so proud of our teachers and our families and our students because those gaps are closing pre and post-COVID. We’re very proud of that. And we want to continue,” Jordan said.

Because of the TEA changes, school districts are starting the year without knowing their accountability rating, that letter grade score.

It won’t be available until the end of September.

We reached out to the TEA, who responded by email:

“This year’s A-F ratings will be the first using new standards established by the A-F Refresh – a multi-year, comprehensive overhaul of Texas’s accountability system. State law required this refresh to help continuously improve student performance and ensure Texas is a national leader in preparing students for success in the classroom and beyond.”

To ensure the refreshed system remained rigorous, transparent, and fair, TEA engaged and sought input from thousands of interested individual Texans, including parents, teachers, school leaders and community members, to inform the refresh and to understand how changes will affect school systems and better reflect growth for students.

Ratings for districts and campuses will be issued on September 28th.

To provide districts with a year-over-year comparison, TEA has provided districts with “What If” ratings using previous methodology.

More on the refresh here.

About the Authors:

William Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.