Frisco ISD takes legal action against TEA over accountability rating uncertainty

Frisco, Texas – In an annual assessment regimen governed by the Texas Education Agency (TEA), educational campuses within the jurisdiction of the Frisco Independent School District (Frisco ISD) are evaluated through a grading method ranging from A to F. Predominantly based on the aggregate performance of students in the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR), this rating mechanism has drawn scrutiny for its unestablished criteria for the upcoming academic cycles of 2022-23 and 2023-24.

Texas Education Agency has yet to formalize the evaluative methodologies

Complicating the matter further, Commissioner Mike Morath and the TEA have yet to formalize the evaluative methodologies that will inform these impending school ratings. Amid this uncertainty, the Frisco ISD Board of Trustees has unanimously ratified an administrative recommendation to enlist the district in a multi-faceted legal challenge against the TEA, originally spearheaded by Kingsville ISD. This legal maneuver, budgeted between $5,000 and $10,000 and to be financed through Frisco ISD’s extant legal allocation, decries the commissioner’s failure to articulate lucid and transparent performance accountability metrics for the aforementioned academic years.

The litigious undertaking is angled toward securing an injunction that would prohibit the commissioner from disseminating new academic ratings grounded in retroactive—and as of yet, nebulous—evaluative measures. A particularly contentious element in the revamped A-F accountability grading system pertains to the TEA’s decision to escalate the minimum threshold required to earn an ‘A’ grade in the arena of college, career, and military readiness (CCMR).

Texas Education Agency unveiled new benchmarks for grading

For the fall of 2023, this new benchmark will be set at 88%, a significant surge from the previous 60% standard. Strikingly, the 88% criterion will be based on the scholastic achievements of the class of 2022, students who have concluded their educational sojourn a full 15 months prior to the implementation of this new metric.

While Frisco ISD remains fundamentally committed to the pursuit of heightened academic standards, it posits that for a fair and equitable application of any new performance indicators, districts across the Lone Star State ought to be granted ample lead time for the internalization and execution of these evolving benchmarks.

“Accountability is an important orienting aspect for a school district; however, the arbitrary application of new measures without the required advanced notice will potentially give the appearance that schools across the state, including Frisco ISD, are declining,” said Frisco ISD Superintendent Dr. Mike Waldrip. “Moving the goalposts arbitrarily is unfair to our students and teachers.”

In spite of a notable uptick in STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) scores, coupled with a heightened proportion of students attaining benchmarks in college, career, and military readiness (CCMR), Frisco Independent School District (Frisco ISD) anticipates a probable decline in its institutional ratings. This looming downgrade is attributed to the post hoc alterations in the accountability system, changes that are projected to adversely affect not just Frisco ISD, but the vast majority of educational districts across Texas. Forecasts from within the district project that several individual campuses may experience a downward shift by one or multiple letter grades.

As early as March 2023, Frisco ISD took the proactive measure of spearheading an initiative to prompt the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to reconsider the recently overhauled accountability metrics. This call for re-evaluation was encapsulated in a collective letter co-signed by an impressive alliance of 250 Texas-based school districts and educational entities.

What parents of Frisco ISD students need to know

Initially slated for release on September 28, the freshly recalibrated accountability ratings for Texan educational institutions were to be predicated on a modified set of criteria. Among the most contentious of these revisions was the inflation of the CCMR performance threshold, catapulting it from a modest 60% to a more demanding 88% to qualify for an ‘A’ grade. However, on September 12, the TEA divulged in a press release that the publication of these scores will be provisionally deferred for an estimated one-month duration. This delay is purportedly to facilitate “further re-examination of the baseline data” integral to the computational methodology.

Adding yet another layer of complexity, a temporary restraining order hearing has been calendared for September 25, merely a day prior to the erstwhile scheduled issuance of the new ratings and three days before the scores would have been formally disseminated, as of the status update on September 11.

The coterie of educational districts coalescing in the legal fray against the TEA is expansive and, while not exhaustive, encompasses the following:

  • Crowley Independent School District (Crowley ISD)
  • Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District (Edinburg CISD)
  • Kingsville Independent School District (Kingsville ISD)
  • Klein Independent School District (Klein ISD)
  • Pflugerville Independent School District (Pflugerville ISD)

In 2022, Frisco ISD was the largest school district in North Texas to receive an ‘A’ accountability rating from TEA.

The impending legal proceedings and institutional recalibrations illuminate the intricate web of issues surrounding educational accountability, adding urgency to the need for clarity and transparent communications from the governing bodies involved.

Mark Long

At Dallas Metro, Mark has the freedom to explore his interests and delve deep into stories that matter. Whether he's investigating corruption in local government or writing about the latest trends in technology, Mark brings his own brand of wit and insight to every piece he writes.

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