During a July 10 board meeting, Klein ISD officials expressed concerns over recent changes to the state’s A-F accountability system, highlighting the need for better support and communication from the Texas Education Agency to ensure fair assessments.

Terms to know

According to the TEA, the A-F accountability system is a statewide rating system that allows the TEA to evaluate the academic performance of Texas public schools and assign a letter grade to districts and campuses. Ratings are calculated based on:The ratings examine student achievement, school progress, and whether districts and campuses are closing achievement gaps among various student groups.

The background

As previously reported by Community Impact, the TEA administered the first round of redesigned STAAR exams last spring. Now administered almost exclusively online, the exams feature:
  • New types of questions that are not traditional multiple-choice questions
  • Cross-curricular reading passages
  • Added evidence-based writing to all reading, language arts, science and social studies tests
In a previous interview with Community Impact, TEA officials said the redesign aimed to more closely align assessments with classroom experience.

In addition to the STAAR redesign, the TEA also made several changes to the A-F accountability system. KISD Chief Academic Officer Anthony Indelicato said the changes will impact 2023 district and campus ratings, which are slated to be released this fall.

Most notably, Indelicato said the TEA changed the scoring of the CCMR component. In the previous system, 60% of graduates had to demonstrate CCMR for a campus to earn an A rating; under the new framework, that threshold has been increased to 88%.

Additionally, the TEA released initial STAAR scores to districts using a new scale:
  • Likely to pass
  • Zone of uncertainty
  • Unlikely to pass
While the TEA released high-level frameworks about the accountability system between November-March, Indelicato said the draft of the accountability manual, which contains the most complete description of the accountability system and its changes, was not released until May—the end of the school year. Indelicato added while the TEA specifically provided high-level materials to present to school boards about the changing system, it has not provided materials to help campus-level staff such as teachers understand the accountability changes.

Why it matters

While STAAR results are typically released in July, TEA officials said the redesign will delay the release of results for elementary and intermediate school students until mid-August. Meanwhile, results for EOC exams administered to high school students last spring were released in June.

“Vast changes to a challenging and evolving assessment in an untimely manner do not effectively evaluate student learning,” Indelicato said in a July 18 email. “Instead, undue pressure on teachers and students to teach to a test and adjust to continuously changing metrics are expectations our schools are facing.”

Additionally, Indelicato said the change to the CCMR component of the accountability system means high school ratings will rely heavily on previous cohorts.

“Now, ratings of high schools will be heavily weighted upon not only a significant increase in one year, but on students who have already graduated,” he said. “This essentially is lagging data and not relevant for our students who are being served.”

Indelicato also said the new results scale does not provide a clear picture of the outcome of learning from the newly redesigned STAAR.

“TEA informed districts that they can use these score labels to determine interventions for students, but there will not be any additional information provided about whether students actually passed or were not successful on STAAR until mid-August,” Indelicato said.

He also warned that “drastic” changes to the rules of achievement could result in ratings that are misleading compared to those of years’ prior as the criteria is no longer directly comparable.

“Because of the Texas Education Agency’s new accountability rules, it is possible that students may have performed better academically in 2023, yet their school could receive a lower rating than they did in 2022,” Indelicato said.

Going forward

Had the TEA allowed one additional academic year before implementing the STAAR changes, Indelicato said teachers and students would have been given adequate time to adjust to the new expectations, and parents would be given a more relevant report of their children’s annual academic achievement.

“In Klein ISD, we believe that the accountability system should allow flexibility in valuing multiple measures of student achievement and success rather than relying heavily on one high-stakes test, especially when these high-stakes tests are being significantly changed without adequate communication to districts and and time to prepare educators and students for a full year of academic expectations,” Indelicato said.

Despite the ongoing challenges, Indelicato said KISD will continue to strive to fulfill its motto of “promise to purpose.”

“Our teaching and learning, assessment and research teams in collaboration with our principals and teachers have worked tirelessly to discern these ever-changing guidelines,” Indelicato said. “Regardless of the changes in STAAR and the accountability system, Klein ISD will continue to provide the absolute best learning experiences for ours students to excel in academics through an engaging and rigorous curriculum that provides real-life, meaningful experiences.”

Hannah Brol contributed to this report.