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Texas school districts unite in lawsuit against state’s new rating system



Dallas, Texas – Over 20 school districts across Texas have come together to mount a legal challenge against Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath. With territories spanning from Kingsville to Crowley and Frisco to Fort Stockton, these institutions have flagged concerns with the sudden recalibrations to the state’s A-F academic rating system, according to Dallas Metro News. Their contention: changes were made without giving adequate notice, potentially causing unjust and adverse outcomes.

At the heart of this dispute is the state’s decision to introduce more stringent performance standards for both individual schools and entire districts. The updated benchmarks, aimed at maintaining current academic ratings, have come under scrutiny, especially because they were revealed at a time when schools were least prepared for them. There’s a tangible fear that these overnight changes might lead to an unjust drop in academic ratings for districts that have been consistently performing well.

Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde of the Dallas Independent School District shared insights into the district’s decision to join the lawsuit. While emphasizing the importance of maintaining accountability for academic outcomes, she stressed the necessity for clear and consistent regulatory guidelines. Such clarity, she believes, is pivotal for districts to plan effectively and achieve the best outcomes. The district, under her leadership, has indeed made notable progress, with test scores on an upward trajectory. However, the May overhaul of the A-F system might not reflect these accomplishments accurately.

Elizalde, highlighting the disconnect, commented, “Put simply, our test scores have gone up, but under the new system, our ratings are projected to decrease. This does not make sense.” Her sentiments echo the sentiment of many educational leaders who feel that the revised benchmarks fail to capture the real essence of their districts’ achievements.

Corroborating Elizalde’s views, Dallas ISD trustee and lawyer, Dan Micciche, voiced his concerns over the retroactive implementation of the new standards. Drawing an analogy to a game, he remarked, “The A through F refresh, if applied to the 2022-23 year, would be changing the rules of the game after the game has been played.”

As the legal battle intensifies, Dallas has emerged as the largest district to officially become a part of the lawsuit. The unfolding situation suggests that Fort Worth Independent School District might soon join the list of litigants, possibly by Tuesday.

The Texas Education Agency’s Stance and Recent Developments

While the districts continue to voice their concerns, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has remained tight-lipped about the lawsuit. Citing that the matter is sub judice, the agency declined to comment on the ongoing proceedings.

In a move that may be related to the legal pressures, the TEA, last week, deviated from its previously communicated schedule. The agency announced a delay in the public release of educational ratings, originally slated for September 28. This anticipated disclosure has now been postponed to a yet-to-be-determined date in October.

In conclusion, the collective grievance of these educational districts brings to light the complexities involved in standardizing academic performance measures. The eventual outcome of this lawsuit could have far-reaching implications, not just for Texas, but potentially setting a precedent for educational systems elsewhere. The case underscores the crucial balance that needs to be maintained between maintaining academic standards and ensuring that they are equitable, transparent, and don’t inadvertently penalize hard-working districts.

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