Letter grades for Texas school districts to debut next week

Texas Education Officials will unveil new letter grades for the state's school districts in one week.

The Texas Education Agency says the goal is transparency, but some are worried the labels could backfire. Next year, the letter grades will go to schools as well.

Local educators said there’s concern that labeling a district or a school with a low or failing grade could prompt some people to move their kids out of their neighborhood school and that would further drain it of talent and resources.

“We don't think there needs to be a scarlet letter,” said Dallas ISD superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa.

The state will grade school districts with an "A" through "F".

Teachers have mixed takes about being on the receiving end of a grade.

“I think it is unfortunate. If a school has lower rankings, parents will want their kids to go to schools with higher rankings. It can affect the neighborhood,” said Lincoln HS teacher Ledarien Serauss.

“As educators we all have the power to create our own labels,” said Skyline teacher Karen Thomas. “If we work hard and put in the effort, and have expectations for our students, it should not be an issue.”

The state says the district grades will be based on either student achievement (how many students are college, career, or military ready) or progress (how many students are at grade level).

The higher score will be combined with how well the district "closed the gap" -- which is based on student growth, even if students are below grade-level.

"We're not afraid of accountability. We believe in accountability,” said State Education Commissioner Mike Morath in a previous interview. He said the goal is to make school performance easier for parents to understand.

But Hinojosa is concerned the grades may oversimplify a complex situation.

“We issued a lot of concern that it was unfair to economically disadvantaged districts and students,” Hinojosa said.

Since then, Hinojosa said the state did make changes to account for the challenges a district like DISD faces, where 90 percent of students are considered low income.

Hinojosa said 43 DISD schools needed improvement three years ago. This year he expects that to be down to 3 to 4 schools.