Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath addressed an audience of business leaders at an event in Dallas earlier this week, during which he defended his decision to update accountability criteria for school systems and campuses.
The event was put on by the Dallas Regional Chamber at Moody Performance Hall. Morath’s keynote speech was followed by a panel discussion that included Dallas ISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde, Cedar Hill ISD Superintendent Gerald Hudson, and Plano ISD Superintendent Theresa Williams.
As previously reported by The Dallas Express, dozens of school districts have signed on to a lawsuit seeking to stop the implementation of the new accountability criteria, which some claim would artificially decrease performance metrics for the 2022-2023 school year. All three districts represented at the Tuesday event have joined the suit.
“It is our moral obligation to give children the best chance they can to be successful in this country to make sure the next generation of Texans has it better than the last. … It’s hard work; nothing about this is easy, but it’s the most important work that we do, and we’ve got to do it right, and it starts with high expectations and starts with being honest with ourselves about performance,” Morath said, according to NBC 5 DFW.
In a news release published last week, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) said that accountability scores for the 2022-2023 school year will probably not be released to the public until late October or early November. Morath said the update is intended to encourage school systems to keep working toward improvement.
“Maintaining high expectations helps guide our efforts to improve student learning and support,” said Morath, per the release. “The A-F system is designed to properly reflect how well our schools are meeting those high expectations, and the adjustments we are making this year will ensure it continues to serve as a tool for parents and educators to help our students.”
Still, superintendents like Elizalde have criticized the new criteria, arguing that it gives parents a distorted view of whether their home district or campus is improving.
“None of us are saying high standards are not something we should continue to work towards. We are saying we should do that in a way that allows us to meet that target and be successful. Giving someone a test when you know they’re not prepared for it serves what purpose?” pressed Elizalde, per NBC 5.
Only 41% of students in Dallas ISD scored at grade level on their STAAR exams during the 2021-2022 school year, despite the work of the district’s dedicated faculty and staff. Nearly 20% of students in the graduating Class of 2022 did not earn a high school diploma within four years, compared to a statewide average for on-time graduation of 90%.
“We all know parents do now look at these letter grades when they’re choosing where to live, so this could have an impact on property values, it could have an impact on student enrollment. Anytime you talk about student enrollment, you’re talking about dollars, because the dollars follow our students. And here we can talk about the loss of finances, decreases in property values, and, of course, more difficulty with an already strained workforce of educators,” Elizalde said, according to NBC 5.
Some 57 Dallas ISD campuses got a D letter grade during the 2021-2022 school year for their student achievement outcomes, and 29 received an F, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.