Here's why TEA says Fort Bend ISD's letter grade of 'D' is not accurate

School districts across the state receive letter grades from the Texas Education Agency, based on the TEA's new A-F accountability rating system.

School districts across the state receive letter grades from the Texas Education Agency, based on the TEA's new A-F accountability rating system.

The preliminary letter grades for Texas school districts handed out from the state this month show Fort Bend ISD appearing to do a poor job in an important category: preparing students for life after high school.

The Texas Education Agency for the first time graded individual schools and school districts in four separate categories. FBISD received a letter grade of ‘D’ in the category titled "postsecondary readiness."

However, TEA spokesperson DeEtta Culbertson said FBISD’s ‘D’ grade is essentially meaningless because, as with all Texas school districts, TEA did not have all the data required to produce an accurate grading.

The formula used by the TEA to determine a school district’s postsecondary readiness score includes the following three categories of data: high school graduation rates, the number of graduates who complete high level education plans, and the number of graduates who meet various other education accomplishments.

Culbertson said much of the missing data involves those education accomplishments. The numbers for those accomplishments count for the majority—57.1 percent—of the TEA’s grades for postsecondary readiness.

For example, education achievements that boost district scores include the number of students who complete a set number of courses under the TEA’s Career and Technical Education component. Culbertson said only some of those students who completed CTE coursework were included in the data, and the TEA does not know how many are missing.

The agency also did not have the number of graduates who complete high level education plans, Culbertson said. This number counts for 14.3 percent of a district’s letter grade.

The TEA letter grades are a representation of a district’s score in each of four categories. FBISD’s ‘D’ grade in Postsecondary readiness is based on its score of 79, as calculated by TEA. That score of 79 is based on FBISD earning a certain number of points out of a maximum number of possible points in the category. FBISD’s points earned were still compared to the maximum number of points it could have earned, and that resulted in the low score and grade.

Asked whether the TEA’s letter grades are akin to a cake baked without all the ingredients called for in its recipe, Culbertson agreed that to be an apt analogy.

Leading up to, and since the release of its letter grades, TEA officials have said repeatedly the marks are not accurate representations of how schools are doing in the four categories it graded.

Officials at many school districts, including FBISD, have condemned the TEA for making the grades public, arguing their schools are being portrayed in a negative light that is not accurate.

Commissioner of Education Mike Morath issued a statement when the grades were released, saying “No inferences about official district or campus performance in the 2015–16 school year should be drawn from these ratings, and these ratings should not be considered predictors of future district or campus performance ratings.”

Beyond postsecondary readiness, FBISD earned grades of ‘A’ in student progress, ‘B’ in student achievement, and ‘C’ in the difference between grades attained by advantaged and disadvantaged students. Those grades, like its ‘D,’ cannot be considered accurate either, because of missing data.