Editor's note: This story has been updated to include comments from the Texas Education Agency and Kingsville ISD.

A district court has temporarily blocked the Texas Education Agency from issuing its new accountability ratings for Texas public schools after it sided with a number of school districts who sued the agency and have called the ratings “unlawful.”

The overview

More than 100 school districts across the state of Texas are suing the TEA over its new A-F accountability ratings system. Some school district officials in recent months, along with those involved in the case, have cited worries that the new rating system will lower performance ratings despite indications that performance has improved, according to court documents from the 419th Civil District Court in Travis County.

A few weeks after the case—Kingsville ISD, et. al., v. Morath—was filed in August, the TEA announced Sept. 12 it was delaying the release of the new ratings, which would be based on performance and test scores for the 2022-23 school year.

In a Sept. 12 news release, TEA Commissioner Mike Morath—who is a defendant in the court case—said the agency was reviewing its methodology.

On Oct. 26, following witness testimony and oral arguments on the case, the 419th Civil District Court in Travis County issued a temporary injunction that will prevent the TEA from issuing or adjusting the ratings.

The TEA said in a statement it would immediately appeal the injunction. If the agency appeals, the injunction would stand until a final determination is made, according to court documents.

"This ruling completely disregards the laws of this state and, for the foreseeable future, prevents any A-F performance information from being issued to help millions of parents and educators improve the lives of our students," a TEA spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "The A-F system has been a positive force in Texas public education, supporting improved outcomes for students across the state, especially those most vulnerable."

In the injunction, District Judge Catherine Mauzy wrote the school districts involved in the case demonstrated the ratings would cause “irreparable harm” to all Texas school districts.

What they’re saying

District officials have raised concerns about how the changing accountability system would affect their school districts.

For example, one metric districts are graded on is student preparedness for college, a career or the military. One adjustment in the new system would have raised the requirement for an A from 60% to 88%.

Kingsville ISD Superintendent Cissy Reynolds-Perez said many districts' overall ratings would drop by one or more letter grades due to the changes, even if their performance improves. If a district or one of its campuses receives a failing grade for five consecutive years, the state can intervene.

Districts can expect to lose revenue if their accountability ratings drop, Reynolds-Perez said, as some parents will withdraw their children and send them to other schools.

"School districts are funded by their enrollment and their [average daily attendance]," Reynolds-Perez said. "So if they're withdrawing students, [the district is] going to lose funding to keep the same number of staff members, the same number of teachers."

District leaders and lawmakers tried to contact the TEA for months before they filed suit in August, Reynolds-Perez said.

"[We were] trying to sound the alarm that this wasn't going to look good for public schools," she said. "And since Commissioner Morath is the leader of Texas public schools, we kind of tried to protect him—if you're leading these public schools, do you really want it looking like they're failing and declining when it's not even a true measure [of their performance]?"

The TEA spokesperson said blocking the release of A-F ratings for the 2022-23 school year is effectively "stunting the academic growth of millions of Texas kids."

Reynolds-Perez disagreed: "True educators do not use just one test to measure a child. We use multiple assessments and we look at the whole child."

More details

Under state law, the TEA is required to update the public school accountability system periodically. The agency redesigned the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness in 2023 to "better align with classroom instruction."

Previously, schools received scores of "not rated" the year of an overhaul of the STAAR or accountability system, Reynolds-Perez said. This gives districts the chance to adjust to the changes when they are "beyond the control of the campuses or the districts," she explained.

"[Public schools] believe in being held accountable, but we also believe that the system holding us accountable should be held accountable as well ... to make sure we're providing the best education for our students," Reynolds-Perez said.

In an Oct. 26 news release from the Texas Association of School Administrators, officials said they were “pleased with the judge’s ruling.” TASA is an association that includes and supports school administrators across Texas.

Stay tuned

“We look forward to future conversations with [Morath] about how to implement the assessment and accountability system in a manner that is fair and transparent for all school districts in the state of Texas,” the statement reads.

The trial on the case will take place at 9 a.m. Feb. 12, according to court documents.