Killeen ISD is joining the lawsuit against the Texas Education Agency, challenging the state’s decision to change the criteria of its accountability system after students took the mandated tests.
The KISD Board of Trustees approved a resolution Tuesday to join the lawsuit.
Superintendent Jo Ann Fey met with local media Wednesday to further explain the decision.
She compared the situation to preparing for a basketball game and finding out upon showing up at the gym that the game was changed to soccer.
The TEA plans to issue data this fall based on different criteria in the A to F accountability system than what was in place when students tested last year.
The change means that in many cases schools and districts will receive lower grades than a year ago while student performance on the state mandated STAAR tests improved.
An example, said Fey, is in the College, Career, and Military Readiness standard known as CCMR. She pointed out one KISD high school that earned a C in the previous system, improved 20 points in the latest testing, but under the new criteria will be graded a D.
“I stand with our teachers. I stand with the staff. I stand with this community. We still have a right to a free public education in our country. Let’s keep it that way,” she said.
Raising standards, the superintendent said, is good, but failing to allow educators and students to adjust to those new standards is unfair.
She praised the work of teachers to increase the level of rigor to challenge students to perform at a higher level.
Fey also praised the ability school leaders have to disaggregate data gained through testing to help guide decisions to make needed change. “Accountability has never been a problem for me,” she said.
“Accountability is complex. It is unyielding. Keeping up with the ever-changing accountability system is and will continue to be exhausting,” she said.
“This is the second time ever in my career I have felt deflated and disheartened by the decisions at TEA who made a leadership choice to change the test and the accountability system in the same year.”
“Not providing ample time to consume and digest those changes is simply unjust,” said Fey. “It is unjust for our staff, for our students, and for our community. These changes are inherently harmful to all districts, but even more harmful to majority minority districts like mine.”
KISD is the 24th largest and fourth most diverse school district in Texas.
Answering reporter questions, Fey acknowledged the decision to join the lawsuit could be unpopular to some, but said she applauded the chance to be accountable and get better.
“We just want desperately to understand the changes before they’re made. We want the playbook.”
Fey said she would like to see TEA slow down to give districts a chance to make plans to comply with changing standards.
“All our campuses improved dramatically in KISD, and yet they all saw drops in performance levels,” she said of the CCMR scores, an area districts are finding especially impacted by TEA changes.
“Hang on. We can do this,” she said in English and Spanish in a statement directed to the public. “We’re improving. Our teachers are doing a fabulous job during a time like no other in our country. Let’s stay the course. Let’s be accountable to each other.”
“Let’s hold our students and staff to high expectations, but let’s do it in a way that we maintain our dignity in our community.”
TEA announced the release of the A-F accountability ratings would be delayed a month, probably to late October. Waco ISD, Temple ISD, and Copperas Cove ISD are also part of the lawsuit.