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Austin ISD Gets 'B' Under New State A-F Grading System

Martin do Nascimento

The Austin Independent School District received a grade of "B" under the state's new A-F grading system. The Texas Education Agency released the preliminary grades for the first time Wednesday.

You can check out ratings for more districts and individual campuses here.

To get an idea of how the system works, schools will receive an A-F grade in December, but it won't officially count this year. The report TEA released today still ranks schools under the old pass/fail system as either "meets standard" or "improvement required."

At a press conference Wednesday, AISD Superintendent Paul Cruz praised schools for doing well, especially those that moved up from "improvement required."

“We know we’re sharing some good news around many schools and our district,” he said. “But I know that we still have work to do. We did have five schools that did not meet state performance standards and are rated as 'improvement required.'"

The five Austin ISD schools rated as "improvement required" were Widen Elementary School, Bertha Sadler Means Young Women’s Leadership Academy, Mendez Middle School, the Graduation Prep Academy at Travis High School and the Rosedale School.

Debra Ready, executive director of AISD’s Accountability and Assessment Department, says many of the Rosedale students have severe special needs and take an alternative STAAR test. Only a handful of students at the school take the test that counts in the rating.

“As it happens at Rosedale, we find that their entire rating hinges upon the performance of six students,” Ready said.

Because of that, Ready said the district will appeal its grade and expects the state to approve it as it has in previous years.

This was the fifth year Mendez Middle School received an “improvement required." Under state law, the TEA must intervene at this point. In anticipation of this possibility, the district made a plan last school year to partner with an outside group to run Mendez.  

The school will open next week as a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) academy.

The president of the Texas American Federation of Teachers said the grades don't reflect what's going on in the schools.

"That single letter grade provides parents no information about how their kids are progressing in school and will only confuse parents more," Louis Malfaro said.

The Texas Legislature created the new grading system during the last legislative session with the intent of having a more detailed and transparent system for parents to learn about a school.

While the new grades are based mostly on how students perform on the STAAR test, there are three categories that contribute to the score: student performance (STAAR scores), school progress (how students perform year after year on STAAR) and closing the achievement gaps (helping improve scores for special education students, students of color, and English learners).

Claire McInerny is a former education reporter for KUT.
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