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Houston ISD officials project the district will have 52 F-rated and 59 D-rated campuses this year — an enormous jump from 2022 — if the Texas courts ultimately allow the state to release ratings under a new, more-rigorous accountability system.

District officials announced the internal calculations Tuesday, despite a court injunction stopping the Texas Education Agency from releasing official ratings for 2023. TEA officials said districts were given the raw data and formulas needed to calculate potential ratings last month, though state officials have not verified HISD’s calculations.

Under the previous formula, nine HISD schools scored at a D or F level in 2022, though they were not officially scored due to the pandemic. About 265 HISD schools were rated last year.

The TEA is temporarily blocked from releasing official accountability scores after a Travis County judge found that the agency unlawfully revamped the rating system, which assigns an A-through-F grade to virtually all public schools and districts.

Consistently low ratings at HISD’s Wheatley High School led to Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath ousting the district’s elected school board in June. A state-appointed board and superintendent now run the district in the face of extensive opposition from many city leaders and HISD families. Miles’ supporters say he’s bringing long-overdue changes to the district.

State officials, who are appealing the temporary injunction, said the accountability system changes were needed to create an up-to-date, rigorous evaluation of Texas schools. Campuses and districts across the state would receive lower grades under the new system, even as standardized test scores — the biggest factor in each district and school rating — did not dramatically change in 2023.

However, hundreds of districts have argued the changes were hastily drawn, excessively strict and unfair to educators. Several of the Houston area’s largest school districts joined the lawsuit seeking to block the release of ratings, including Cy-Fair, Klein, Pasadena and Spring Branch. HISD is not involved in the lawsuit.

HISD Superintendent Mike Miles said district employees calculated the scores with the TEA’s new formula to gauge where schools stand — and the numbers shared Tuesday dwarf the original estimate he delivered to the community in August.

Miles previously used 2021-22 test score data to estimate what the district’s performance would look like under the tightened accountability formula, though he estimated that roughly 50 campuses would receive a D or F, possibly dropping the district’s overall rating to a “C.” The new rankings angered community members, who feel the state is unfairly changing the measure of the district’s success.

Miles said he was surprised to see such a large spike in D- and F-rated campuses, but he pointed to the change as proof that his efforts to overhaul schools across the district are needed. Of the 52 F-rated schools, 31 are currently seeing massive reforms under Miles’ “New Education System,” which he said shows the schools undergoing the most change were “appropriately identified.”

“It's not a surprise about where we are, so we have a lot of work to do,” Miles said. “The state has just confirmed the distance we have to travel and the need for doing bold, innovative transformation.”

Forty-five schools that received a D or F rating are not currently part of the NES system, though Miles said he suspects they could be brought into the fold next year. The district has not yet shared any information about which schools could be added to his overhaul efforts in future years.

HISD officials aim to publicly share each school’s unofficial score in January, before the district’s school choice application process begins.

The state ratings are particularly important in HISD, where state officials have linked improvement in accountability scores to the reinstatement of the district’s elected school board.

Morath told the Abdelraoufsinno in March that “we don’t want to see any more multiyear D or F campuses in Houston” — a goal that now appears Herculean under the new accountability framework.

However, Morath has not explicitly stated that HISD must eliminate multiyear D or F campuses before elected board members begin returning to power. State law gives Morath wide latitude over deciding when to reinstate elected trustees.

Morath said in March that he foresees the appointed board remaining in place for two to six years.

“We just want to ensure that the underlying structural factors that required this action in the first place are addressed,” Morath said in March.

Prior to the state intervention this summer, HISD joined more than 200 school districts in protesting the TEA’s new formula. In a letter to state officials, the districts argued it was unfair to assess performance from a previous year using a method announced after the start of the 2022-23 school year.

The TEA’s new formula is particularly strict on the college, career and military readiness portion of the accountability ratings, cracking down on methods that schools have used to raise their scores in recent years. The districts, however, argued the change would result in worse scores for many districts and schools — possibly confusing families by signaling a sudden drop in performance.

“In the midst of a teacher shortage, the last thing school districts need is another false narrative that drives a wedge between schools and the families they serve,” the letter reads. “No public relations campaign from the TEA will be adequate to combat the misperception that our schools are suddenly worse than they were last year.”

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Miranda Dunlap is a reporter covering K-12 schools across the eight-county Greater Houston region. A native Michigander, Miranda studied political science pre-law and journalism at Michigan State University....