A-F grades are coming to Texas schools regardless of the outcome of a lawsuit, according to an education expert.

Some districts are suing the Texas Education Agency to stop it from issuing grades under the newly revised accountability system.

The TEA revised formulas and cutoffs for letter grades as part of an update to the accountability system as required by state law. A-F ratings were introduced in 2017, and this year marks the first update.

What outcome are school districts hoping for as a result of the lawsuit? That everything stays how it was, said Jo Beth Jimerson, a Texas Christian University education professor. 

“I don’t really think anything changes, because they already know that the standards are eventually raising,” she said. “So, the schools already have targets and benchmarks they’ve been trying to reach.”

Cracks may show in the relationship between schools and the TEA if districts don’t win the lawsuit, Jimerson said.

“There has now been a seed of distrust sown,” Jimerson said. “You’re going to tell me what those rules are; OK, we now know what the higher standards are; are you gonna change those a year from now? Now we’d have a situation with Lucy and Charlie Brown … Lucy’s pulling the ball out.”

Lower ratings are widely expected under the revised formulas. 

In September, because of lower-than-expected post-pandemic outcomes, TEA pushed back the release of ratings to late October/early November to give officials time to rework formulas.

Fort Worth ISD joined the lawsuit against the TEA on Sept. 19. Arlington ISD joined the lawsuit in late September. Crowley ISD and Denton ISD also have joined. As of Oct. 19, more than 100 school districts across the state have signed on to the lawsuit. 

The A-F ratings, which measure school performance on a variety of academic and operational metrics, are used by parents and community members to see how their schools and districts are performing in educating their children, said Arlington ISD trustee Aaron Reich. 

Parents could be confused why the ratings of their schools and districts are regressing, Arlington ISD trustee David Wilbanks said. “That’s not right,” he said.

Richard Weber, a former Arlington ISD candidate who challenged Reich in 2021, said the district should not be thinking about undoing past results.

“Stop the whining,” Weber said. “Over half the students failed the test, failed not being at grade level.”

Regardless, school districts are preparing for stricter metrics and a tougher rating system.

“In terms of moving forward, they know that those standards are getting raised,” Jimerson said. 

Matthew Sgroi is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at matthew.sgroi@fortworthreport.org. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Matthew Sgroi is the 2022-23 Fort Worth Report multimedia fellow. He can be reached at matthew.sgroi@fortworthreport.com or (503)-828-4063. Sgroi is a current senior at Texas Christian University, majoring...