Keller ISD has joined numerous other school districts across the state in a lawsuit against the Texas Education Agency over the state’s accountability ratings.

The action taken

Keller ISD board members voted unanimously 5-0 during their regular meeting Sept. 25 to join the lawsuit. Before reading the resolution that outlines the reasons why the district is joining the lawsuit, KISD general counsel Amanda Bigbee said 95 school districts across the state have joined the lawsuit, representing 1.7 million students.

The backstory

Filed in August in the Travis County 419th District Court, the legal petition Kingsville ISD, et. al., v. Morath alleges TEA Commissioner Mike Morath would effectively lower A-F performance ratings for the 2022-23 school year in an unlawful manner by changing the way they are calculated retroactively.

"That will arbitrarily lower performance ratings for many school districts and campuses even though their performance improved," the petition reads.

The TEA began a refresh of its methodology for calculating accountability ratings in late 2021, sharing new benchmarks students must reach for schools to receive a certain letter grade, according to an agency news release. One of these adjustments raised the cutoff point for a district to receive an A rating based on the college, career and military readiness of students from 60% to 88%.

District officials across the state have raised concerns about the impact of the changes to accountability ratings—a metric used by school boards to address educational priorities year to year. It is also a performance measure used to gauge the quality of schools by their communities and prospective families.

The TEA announced Sept. 12 it would delay the release of A-F accountability ratings for Texas school districts and campuses from Sept. 28 to October to review student data and re-evaluate the methodology used in calculating these ratings, a news release from the agency states.

“Maintaining high expectations helps guide our efforts to improve student learning and support,” Morath said in the release. “The A-F system is designed to properly reflect how well our schools are meeting those high expectations, and the adjustments we are making this year will ensure it continues to serve as a tool for parents and educators to help our students.”

What they’re saying

Interim Superintendent John Allison spoke about the importance of having a quality accountability system in place that gives students and families the correct information when it comes to school performance.

“We want it to be transparent,” Allison said. “We want it to make sense, and we want it to actually reflect the growth and the work of our students and our teachers. Let’s make sure that our accountability system is something of value to our communities and a value to our schools as we make decisions about how we approach educating Texas kids as we move forward.”

Board President Charles Randklev opined about the message a flawed accountability system would send to the community about the state of Keller schools.

“This issue is much bigger than test scores,” Randklev said. “What we’re talking about is a system that could undermine our communities and our local businesses because we’re going to give folks a snapshot that does not actually represent what’s going on in schools, and that’s wrong.”