Humble ISD trustees at their Feb. 21 meeting received a report from administration officials explaining how the Texas Education Agency’s A-F accountability ratings are calculated.

In August, the district received a B for the 2021-22 school year with 82 out of 100 possible points, marking the first time the district received a rating in two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to TEA officials, the accountability rating score consists of individual grades in the following three components: student achievement, which is based on how many students are ready for college, career or the military, and how students perform on State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, exams; school progress, which compares student performance with their performance from the previous year; and closing the gaps, which assesses how well students from different races, income levels and educational statuses are performing.

HISD Superintendent Elizabeth Fagen said she believes the ratings do not necessarily reflect the achievements of students throughout the district.

“In a quality state accountability system, there is a criterion reference system,” Fagen said. “If all your children grow in reading, you get an A. If all your children grow in math, you get an A ... but our state system has nothing like that.”

Fagen also said some of the terminology used in the accountability rating system—including the terms “approaches grade level,” “meets grade level” and “masters grade level”—which are used to describe student outcomes on STAAR exams—can be misleading.

“The word ‘approaches’ would lead to parents to believe that that means approaches grade level,” Fagen said. “’Approaches’ is actually on grade level, then ‘meets’ is above grade level, and ‘masters’ is well above grade level, so it can be a little misleading when people are reading through it.”

According to Warren Roane, the district’s director of accountability and research, the school progress portion of the rating system can also be misleading as the scores needed to obtain passing grades on STAAR exams can vary by grade level and change from year to year.

Roane said the district could theoretically gain points in the student progress category even if the student passed the STAAR exam one year and failed the exam the following year.

“You can pass STAAR the first year and fail STAAR the next year but still get growth because the number of questions required to pass might increase,” Roane said. “It's not as straightforward as one might think.”

Roane said the student progress component is further complicated because there are several ways the score can be measured, including scenarios in which students are only awarded a half-point for growth instead of a full point.

“You could actually get a score of 50% in a variety of ways,” Roane said. “50% could mean that you had 50% of your students making one point of growth and then the rest making zero growth, or it could be that you had 100% of your students making growth at only a partial rate of one half, so 50% is not very straightforward.”

Roane said the process of calculating a district’s accountability rating in-house is a daunting task.

“It takes about 100 typewritten pages to calculate the A-F scores for a given district,” Roane said. “That's really complicated.”

Position 1 Trustee Robert Sitton also raised concerns with the accountability rating system.

“A school literally could have a graduation rate in the 50th percentile and still score 80% in college career readiness because of the way that it's being calculated,” Sitton said.

Roane said he felt it was up to the TEA to make the system easier to understand.

“One of the goals of the Texas Education Agency is to make [the rating system] transparent and easy to understand, but I think they failed at both of those,” Roane said.

As previously reported by Community Impact, the Texas Legislature has proposed several bills aimed at improving the state's accountability rating system.

HB 37, filed by Rep. Mary González, D-El Paso, would establish a commission tasked with developing recommendations to improve public school assessment and accountability. Multiple bills aim to directly alter Texas’ assessment model, including HB 337, which would alter certain end-of-course assessment and graduation requirements, and HB 680, which would implement “growth-based” assessments that can be catered to students’ needs.

Additionally, Rep. Ernest Bailes, R-Shepherd, filed HB 535, which would expand the indicators used to measure public school achievement.