Judge Blocks Texas Education Agency From Releasing New, Harsher Grades

A-F accountability grade: incomplete

Mendez Middle School has received low marks from the TEA for years (Photo by Jana Birchum)

The Texas Education Agency won’t be releasing its new, harsher A-F grades of the state’s schools any time soon.

Travis County District Judge Catherine Mauzy issued a temporary injunction on Thursday to stop the agency from making the grades public, agreeing with school districts across the state that TEA’s recent changes to the A-F accountability system “violate Texas law and would cause irreparable harm” to schools.

The A-F grades are extremely important to schools and the communities around them. They affect school enrollment, which can increase or reduce school budgets. They also directly contribute to the prosperity of school neighborhoods by influencing housing values. The letters are also used to determine whether schools are failing, and if they fail long enough, the TEA can replace a district’s electeds with state-appointed replacements.

Educators have been protesting the release of the new grades since March, when TEA Commissioner Mike Morath first announced the accountability refresh. They believe that the new standards will drop the scores of schools and school districts at least one letter grade across the state, even though most schools are actually performing better this year as they continue to recover from the COVID crisis. Some supporters of public education, like Austin Reps. Gina Hinojosa, Donna Howard, and James Talarico, have questioned why TEA has created new standards that will create a false perception that schools are struggling, just as Gov. Greg Abbott is pushing the Texas Legislature to approve a voucher scheme.

Mauzy issued her injunction after hearing arguments earlier this month in a lawsuit brought by dozens of districts, including Del Valle and Leander ISDs. The districts asked for a permanent injunction to stop the release of the grades, saying that Morath broke the law when he announced he was conducting an “accountability refresh,” which would change the formula used to calculate the grades but did not – as required by Texas law – specify what that formula would be.

The grades were supposed to have been made public in September, but the release had already been delayed until November after TEA questioned the data it was using to make the calculations.

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