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Texas’ Federal School Accountability Plan Gets Mixed Reviews From Experts

School lockers in a charter school hallway in November 2017.
File Photo |Camille Phillips | Texas Public Radio

Experts say parts of Texas’ federal school accountability plan approved by the U.S. Department of Education in March are promising, but they also have some concerns.

Anne Hyslop, who helped write the Every Student Succeeds Act as an education department official under the Obama administration, said Texas is to be commended for being one of only a few states using a competition to distribute federal school improvement funds.

ESSA gave states greater responsibility and flexibility to hold schools accountable than the previous version of the federal education law, No Child Left Behind. As part of that flexible responsibility, states were required to submit accountability plans to the education department.

“Whenever you are using funds competitively, I think you just get stronger plans. People take the process more seriously, because they know that they have to have a strong application in order to get access to those critical resources,” Hyslop said.

However, both Hyslop and Chad Aldeman, a principal with the nonprofit consulting firm Bellwether Education Partners, said they believe Texas’ state accountability rules could conflict with ESSA because the state plan lets schools create additional accountability standards.

“The federal law requires that states set up a uniform accountability system,” Aldeman said. “That’s not a uniform system, and so the ratings that the state gives to schools and to districts won’t be perfectly comparable because of that.”

Hyslop and Aldeman also said Texas’ final ESSA plan didn’t have enough detail on the state’s A-F accountability rankings. The Texas Education Agency released its final A-F measures on Monday, after the U.S. Department of Education approved Texas’ ESSA plan.

Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille