Every year, a variety of organizations with a multitude of acronyms submit lists of what they believe are the best public, private and charter schools in the country. Some are compiled by news organizations, others by non-profits — even those by bloggers without credentialed education connections.
Since 2006, Texas education nonprofit Children at Risk has released an annual Texas School Guide containing regional rankings of public and charter schools. Its 2019 guide, released Tuesday, issued “A” through “F” grades to more than 8,000 schools, using its own formula to identify the best in the state.
“We get a variety of reactions from our surveys,” said Kellie O’Quinn, research director for Children at Risk’s Center for Social Measurement and Evaluation. “Part of our job acting as a third party is to have higher standards than the state education agency, which is why we continue to do our own external grades and rankings.”
TSG’s study broke down schools in five state regions, including greater San Antonio, where New Braunfels and Comal independent school district campuses were included rankings of nearly 600 schools in six counties.
“We are always focused on continual improvement and this is one more data source that gives us feedback on how we are serving students and provides insight as to the areas in which we can get better,” Comal ISD Superintendent Andrew Kim said.
Comal ISD and NBISD officials are more focused on meeting assessments conducted by the Texas Education Agency, which oversees and annually evaluates the state’s public schools. Last year’s TEA assessment issued A-through-F ratings to school districts; grades will be assigned to individual campuses beginning this year.
TEA assessments, largely based on State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness testing results, measure district and school performance in three domains – student achievement, school progress and closing academic performance gaps.
TSG’s annual reports also rely on TEA data, but they assign more weight to programs that provide measured growth for economically disadvantaged and at-risk students.
“Some people really appreciate and value the differences between our study and the TEA’s, while others want to have ours more similar to TEA rankings,” O’Quinn said.
Last year, New Braunfels and Comal independent school districts met TEA standards. Overall, the districts scored 86 and 89.4 in the agency’s 2017-18 assessments of school districts released last August. Not all of the state’s 1,200 districts received letter grades and hundreds of the state’s 8,759 campuses were excluded for a variety of reasons.
Both local districts received TEA “Met Standard” ratings. Comal ISD received an “A” in student achievement; a “B” in school progress and a “B” in closing performance gaps. NBISD received “B” grades in each of the domain categories.
Twenty-two Comal ISD campuses totaled 57 distinction designations and seven NBISD campuses earned 15 distinctions for exceeding TEA benchmarks in English Language Arts/reading; math; science; social studies; student academic progress and closing performance gaps, and postsecondary readiness.
Five Comal ISD schools were included in TSG’s 2019 top 10 regional rankings of elementary, middle and high schools. Eight campuses received grades between “A+” and “A-minus.”
“While we are pleased to see five of our campuses in the top 10 list for their categories, we also recognize that this is just one of many campus ranking systems – and, as a result, one of many data sources that we review,” said Kerry Gain, Comal ISD’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and academics. “The five that ranked in the top 10 achieved great student growth this year and continue to work towards improving outcomes for kids.”
Nearly all of NBISD’s campuses received grades ranging between “B+” and “B-minus.”
“With nearly 40 percent of NBISD students classified as economically disadvantaged and nearly 40 percent considered at-risk, we are committed to providing every student with the tools they need to grow and succeed,” NBISD Superintendent Randy Moczygemba said.
“While we appreciate the Texas School Guide for attempting to capture school performance and informing the community of the efforts staff and students put in year to year, we look forward to the release of our official ratings in the fall from the Texas Education Agency.”
O’Quinn and Patrick Gill, associate director of CAR’s Research Center for Social Measurement and Evaluation, said the organization recently entered into a partnership with the TEA, which will release its information in time for CAR to issue an updated TSG report in August.
“It will no longer be a year behind, like the data we recently released based on the 2017-18 school year,” Gill said.
Added O’Quinn: “That partnership will allow our assessments to no longer lag behind TEA assessments,” she said. “The next (TSG) guide will be based on the same methodology as we have now, just with an updated timeline.”