Preliminary A-F accountability ratings released by the Texas Education Agency this morning classified Austin ISD as "unacceptable" in the category of "postsecondary readiness"—an area in which the district prides itself through its mission of preparing students for "college, career and life."

According to AISD board president and trustee Kendall Pace, the "D" grade assigned to AISD is largely impacted by chronic absenteeism in elementary and middle schools and therefore is an unfair representation of the district's ability to prepare students for life after high school. Pace suggested eliminating the postsecondary indicator for elementary schools altogether.

"Chronic absenteeism is not postsecondary readiness related," she said.

Pace also criticized the system's blanket approach to determining postsecondary readiness—resulting in lackluster performance of niche groups affecting a school's grade as a whole. She referenced the award-winning McCallum High School, which received a failing score in the postsecondary readiness domain— a result she said was largely influenced by the poor performance of African-American students in advanced placement courses.

"It is highly unfair for a highly performing school's entire reputation to be based on the performance of a small group of students," she said.

In the remaining domains, Austin ISD scored in the "acceptable" range; it received a "B" in the domain measuring student achievement; a "B" in the domain measuring student progress; and a "C" in the domain measuring the district's ability to close performance gaps.

Elementary schools in AISD saw a significant number of "C", "D" and "F" letter grades in one or more categories; middle schools fared poorly with a majority of "C" and "D" letter grades; and district high schools scored primarily in the "C" and "D" range. Norman Elementary School received failing grades across the board.

According to the TEA, the A-F accountability system measures year-over-year district and student performance beyond State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, results. However, many vocal opponents of the system, including the AISD board of trustees, feel that the ratings rely too heavily on standardized test scores, as evidenced by a resolution passed by the board Dec. 19.

To date, there is no definitive research that suggests these ratings have improved students’ or school performance,” the resolution stated.

Once the system is officially implemented in August 2018, districts and campuses will receive a rating of A, B, C, D or F in each of five domains and for overall performance. The fifth domain, community and student engagement, was not included in the preliminary ratings released this morning.

The district's scores are non-punitive and do not replace the ratings already assigned by the TEA for 2016.