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Feds approve Texas school accountability plan that includes parts of A-F rating system

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos testifies to the House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee on the FY2019 budget request for the Department Education on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on March 20, 2018. (Photo by REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

By Aliyya Swaby | The Texas Tribune

Texas got final approval Monday from the U.S. Department of Education for its school improvement and accountability plan, including a portion of its new system for grading schools.

Texas is in the process of finalizing its plan for evaluating public schools, as the federal government transitions to a new set of policies governing how schools should use federal funding to educate students. In 2015, the federal government signed the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, which is intended to give states more freedom on setting goals for school districts, turning around low-performing schools and administering standardized tests.

ESSA replaces the controversial No Child Left Behind Act, which had stricter regulations on how states were expected to hold schools accountable for educating students.

Each state was required to submit a plan last year, including a rundown on how it would rate and evaluate its schools, intended to take effect this school year.

Texas submitted a plan that includes parts of its newly updated accountability system for rating and evaluating schools and districts on a scale from A to F. The state Legislature made final revisions to the accountability system last spring, replacing a pass/fail system; school districts will receive their first grades this August.

Schools and districts will be graded in three categories: student achievement, student progress and closing the gaps.

"Texas’ plan met the requirements of the law, therefore I have approved it," U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in a statement Monday. "I look forward to seeing how Texas embraces the flexibility afforded by ESSA to innovate on behalf of the Lone Star State’s students.”

In the spring, Texas will open up public comment on the A-F system, beginning the process of creating a manual for how schools and districts will be graded. State education officials say it's not too late for parents and educators to suggest changes to the accountability system despite the fact that it has received federal approval.

"Should the agency receive additional feedback during the A-F accountability public comment period that leads to decisions different from what has been approved in our ESSA plan, Commissioner [Mike] Morath will submit amendments to USDE that reflect input from stakeholders," TEA spokesperson Lauren Callahan said in a statement.

The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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