Leander ISD was among five area school districts to receive an overall ‘B’ grade in the first-ever Texas State Accountability Ratings released on Wednesday by the Texas Education Agency.
The TEA website established for parents to view schools’ performance reports Leander ISD’s overall score as an 89, with the district earning a numeric score of 93 for ‘Student Achievement,’ a score of 87 for ‘School Progress,’ and an 89 for ‘Closing the Gaps.’
However, Leander ISD officials say the district’s actual score was a 95, but because TEA rules prevent a district with a campus listed as ‘Improvement Required’ from earning an ‘A’ rating, the district is reported as having a ‘B.’
This is just one example of the complexities that local districts and school advocates have pointed out in criticism of the new A-F grading system for schools.
“While state accountability, college entrance exams and other academic measures are important for calculating academic growth, our focus continues to be on growing the whole child, whatever their talents, to prepare them for life beyond the classroom,” Leander ISD Superintendent Dan Troxell said in a release. “We believe accountability is essential to ensuring our community high quality schools. However, the simplification of a complex rating system to a single letter grade does not represent the charge of public education.”
Leander ISD has 41 campuses listed with numeric grades on the TEA website. Of those, 40 were given a ‘Met Standard’ rating, with 21 campuses receiving grades of 90 or better. Two campuses scored what would be classified as failing grades by the numeric scoring system used for students: Lois F. Giddens Elementary with a 68 and Christine Camacho Elementary with a 59. However, only Camacho Elementary was listed as an ‘Improvement Required’ campus.
Round Rock ISD earned an ‘A’ with an overall score of 90. The district scored a 91 in ‘Student Achievement,’ and earned grades of 89 for ‘School Progress’ and ‘Closing the Gaps.’
Of its 52 graded campuses, RRISD had 23 that earned grades of 90 or better. Bluebonnet Elementary had the district’s lowest score, earning a 61. Xenia Voigt Elementary earned a 64.
Lago Vista ISD earned a ‘B’ with an overall score of 89. All four of its campuses were rated as ‘Met Standard.’
Georgetown ISD was the lowest-scoring district in the north Austin suburban area, earning a ‘B’ with a score of 80. GISD scored 83 for ‘Student Achievement’ but earned marks of 76 and 74, respectively, for ‘School Progress’ and ‘Closing the Gaps.’ Three of its 16 campuses were listed as needing improvement, while only Jo Ann Ford Elementary scored in the ‘A’ range with a 94.
Liberty Hill, Lake Travis and Eanes ISDs all earned ‘A’ grades, while Austin ISD earned a ‘B’ grade with a score of 89.
Other area districts didn’t fare so well. Hays CISD earned a ‘C,’ while Manor and Del Valle ISDs both earned ‘D’ grades.
LISD students and schools also earned 63 Distinction Designations awarded by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) for academic performance, an increase of 62 percent from the previous year.
LISD grew the total number of distinctions in all three school levels compared to 2017. That includes an increase to 26 in elementary schools, a 53 percent growth; to 19 in middle schools, an increase of 111 percent; and 18 in high schools, an increase of 38 percent.
Laura Welch Bush and Grandview Hills elementary schools earned five of six distinctions. Henry Middle School earned five of seven distinctions. Vandegrift High School earned six of seven distinctions.
Throughout the district, 22 of 40 schools earned at least one distinction, including all six comprehensive high schools. In addition, 15 schools earned distinctions in Closing the Gap and 11 in Academic Growth.
This year’s A-F grades for school districts will be followed next year by the Texas Commissioner of Education issuing letter grades for each public school campus.
To access Texas school district ratings, visit https://txschools.org.
Editor's Note: This version of the story has been updated to reflect two LISD schools receiving a score lower than 70, whereas a third school — Pleasant Hill Elementary — received a numeric score of 74, which would be a letter grade of 'D' in some school districts.