SWEETWATER, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – While students anxiously await their report cards, Texas school districts also await grades from the Texas Education Agency (TEA). But after recent changes in the A-F accountability system, districts across the state are suing the TEA so those scores won’t get released.
“We’re having to join a lawsuit to say, you know, ‘stop. Stop doing this to what we do,'” said Dr. Deidre Parish, Sweetwater ISD Superintendent. “I hope that’s what the lawsuit will do; to relay the message clearly that enough is enough.”
Sweetwater ISD joins a lawsuit that includes other districts in the Houston area, including Spring Branch ISD and Brazosport ISD. SBISD agreed to join the lawsuit earlier this month, while Brazosport ISD agreed to join on Tuesday.
“This is an attempt on the part of TEA and Commissioner (Mike) Morath to join our legislators in not supporting public schools,” Spring Branch ISD superintendent Dr. Jennifer Blaine said. “Be very clear that there is a concerted effort between our commissioner and our legislators to starve public schools by withholding funding and making it appear as though we are failing kids.”
As schools across the nation continue to recover from a post-COVID world, the TEA also made changes to Texas’ STAAR tests this past spring.
“Limited funding, positions that are hard to fill, with an armed person on every campus… Let us catch up. At least give us a year to look at this at this STAAR test, look at this new assessment, look at this new redesigned exam that you were putting on us and our students, and kind of give us a chance,” Dr. Parish listed her frustrations as an educator.
The A-F accountability system grades districts and schools on a variety of factors including academic growth and STAAR performance. A low score can negatively impact the district.
“You want people to come and move to your community ’cause we’re all interdependent,” explained Dr. Parish. “So, our community, our hospital, our city, our town, our county depend on the school district [to be] the best that we can be so people want to move here and industry wants to come.”
For the 2021-2022 school year, Sweetwater ISD received a B grading.
The TEA was set to release scores for the 2022-2023 term by September 28, but pushed them back for about another month. However, the agency did not say if this is in response to the lawsuit. In turn, Dr. Parish said more districts are jumping in on the legal battle.
“‘Cause there’s a lot of people joining this lawsuit and joining the fight, it’s time for us to stand up. We have 760,000 people statewide that support public education from employees to board members,” Dr. Parish told KTAB/KRBC.
The lawsuit names Mike Morath, the TEA commissioner of education, as the defendant. The goal of the lawsuit, according to Dr. Parish, is to give schools more time to adjust.
“Overall, that’s what we would like- to freeze this year and maintain last year’s rating, and give us a little bit of relief… We’re going to take care of their (students’ parents) kids every day and we’re going to teach them how to read and how to write. You know, teach them how to learn,” added Dr. Parish.
Chad Washington from Nexstar’s KIAH in Houston contributed to this report.