How Texas Public School Accountability Is Rigged

Chris Tackett
Sep 11, 2019 · 5 min read

Let me say right from jump that I didn’t write a single word of this post (other than this intro).

What follows is a compilation of multiple posts made by the esteemed Troy Reynolds, founder of Texans for Public Education. He is writing about the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) A-F school rating system (screenshots are all from their site), which gives what seems like straightforward grades to public school districts and campuses. I stress “seems like”, because as Troy lays out, the system is anything but straightforward.


Part One

Today’s trivia fact about the failures of A-F.

Let’s say your Hispanic population has a 98% graduation rate this year. That’s well over the federal threshold of 90%, so you should get a good grade on that indicator, right? Maybe not! If that same population had one more kid graduate last year than this year, and you had a 98.08 instead of a 98.0, you did not IMPROVE your grad rate, so according to the Texas state plan, you did NOT meet that indicator. If you ever miraculously reach 100%, you have to stay there or fail that indicator. One more example of rigging the game!

Part Two

In today’s installment of “How Texas Accountability is Rigged,” a chapter on how a school which fails half its students can get a better grade than one which gets every single student to pass.

Index 1 of the accountability system is entitled “Student achievement” and except for high schools, is 100% the STAAR test results.

For anyone other than a high school, to get your Index 1 score, you add up the percentage of students who got “Approaches standard or above” (a score that is considered passing, since it means the student advances grades), the percentage of students who got “Meets standard or above”, and the percentage of students who got “Masters standard” then divide by three. First of all, you mathematicians out there immediately see a problem here. If little Johnny scored so high that he got masters, then he was also counted in the approaches group and the masters group, since they both include “or above.” Basically, we are averaging two subsets into a master set…which makes no statistical sense. However, let’s get back to the point at hand.

Let’s say 100% of School A’s students got “Approaches” ratings. None of them scored high enough to get meets, and obviously, none got high enough to get master’s. Their Index score would be (Approaches + Meets + Masters)/3, which turns into (100 + 0 + 0)/3 and gives them a score of 33.3.

Meanwhile, only HALF of school B’s kids make approaches. FIFTY percent completely bomb the test and get a rating of “did not approach.” However, the kids who DID pass managed to pass high, so not only do you have 50% at approaches, you also had 40% get meets and 30% get master’s. That equals (50 + 40 + 30)/3 or a score of 40….SEVEN POINTS HIGHER THAN THE CAMPUS WHICH PASSED EVERY KID.

Again, do not place trust in the A-F system no matter what your district or campus made. If it’s invalid for an F, it’s invalid for an A. I will continue posting tidbits like this for folks because there are plenty of them to post. #RiggedSystem

Part Three

What the state is presenting to parents as an “easy to understand grade” isn’t a grade at all.

Yes, that’s right, the “easy to understand” grade that supposedly “gives parents the information they need to make educational decisions for their child” isn’t even a grade as parents understand it at all. It’s a scale score, not a percentage grade.

When my child gets a grade, I understand it because it is a percentage. If he gets an 80 for a six weeks, I know that means that, on average, he answered correctly 80% of the time on any given assignment. However, although the scores for schools are presented as grades, that’s not what they are at all.

Don’t believe me? Try this little experiment. Go to this link: https://rptsvr1.tea.texas.gov/perfreport/account/2019/scaling_tool.html. Once there, choose whether you want to calculate for a district or a campus, etc. Now, let’s calculate the score for a campus which gets only 45% on Index 1, (Even that’s not quite accurate, so we’ll come back to this in a moment.) Student Achievement (click the dot next to that component.) Enter 45 under Domain or Component Score, and press the button which says, “compute scale score.” If you are calculating for a high school campus like I did, that’s going to give you a score of. 73 (C).

That’s a mighty big curve.

Also, remember that even the 45% pass rate that you entered wasn’t really 45%. As we talked about in the last installment, it’s actually the average of (All students approaches or above + all students meets or above + all students masters level)/3. In actuality, that 45% probably represents much lower than that hitting the “meets” level, which is the federal standard for passing and for state accountability.

Smoke and mirrors, folks. Dan Patrick et al use buzzwords like “transparency” and “school transformation” when all they’re really doing is pushing a system which shows us where the poverty in this state is located. They disguise a convoluted formula as a “grade” and try to make parents believe that it represents what parents see on a report card when it is anything but. Stop buying into the hype and pay attention. You are being played so that corporations can privatize public education and put your tax dollars into their pockets. #RiggedSystem

Chris Tackett

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I chart Texas Politics at christackettnow.com and write about things that matter (to me at least) whenever the muse hits.

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