The Texas Charter Schools Association submitted the following comments to Commissioner Morath at the Texas Education Agency on Monday, June 27, 2016. The comments pertain to 19 TAC Chapter 97, Planning and Accountability, Subchapter AA, Accountability and Performance Monitoring, §97.1001, Accountability Rating System.
The Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA) is the statewide membership organization for effective charter schools of all types, proudly representing nearly 228,000 students in more than 628 open-enrollment charter school campuses. We appreciate the opportunity to provide comment in response to the proposed 2016 Accountability Manual (19 TAC Chapter 97, Planning and Accountability, Subchapter AA, Accountability and Performance Monitoring, §97.1001, Accountability Rating System). Specifically, we are concerned with the limitations the 2016 Accountability Manual places on the ability for a school to successfully appeal its state accountability rating.
Appeal of Accountability Ratings
Chapter 7 of the proposed 2016 Accountability Manual sets forth the process and basis upon which a district or charter may challenge an agency determination of its accountability rating, as required under Texas Education Code §39.151. As proposed, the basis upon which a ratings appeal would be granted is extremely narrow and only “limited to rare cases where a data or calculation error is attributable to the test contractor(s) or the Texas Education Agency (TEA).”
Limiting the ratings appeal process to a data calculation error attributable to TEA or the test contractor impermissibly restricts the ratings appeal process that is statutorily provided to charters and school districts under Tex. Educ. Code §39.151. The only limitation set forth in Tex. Educ. Code § 39.151 is that the appeal must be in writing. In fact, section (c) of §39.151 specifically states a school district or open-enrollment charter school may challenge “any issue identified by the school district or open-enrollment charter school challenging the agency decision.” The very narrow basis for appeal provided in the proposed 2016 Accountability is in conflict with this statutory directive.
This inappropriate limitation by rule to the accountability rating appeals process affects all public schools, but particularly charter schools because open-enrollment charter schools are subject to mandatory closure requirements under Chapter 12 of the Education Code based on accountability and financial performance ratings. Given these high-stakes accountability requirements, when a charter school receives an accountability rating that is undeservedly low due to a data calculation or entry error made by the school, it should have the opportunity to fully appeal that rating, including the opportunity to demonstrate to the Commissioner with supporting evidence that it should receive a higher accountability rating if the error is corrected. As proposed under the 2016 Accountability Manual, there is zero opportunity to ensure that the accountability rating assigned to the school is the rating the school in fact deserves. Charter schools should have a full and fair opportunity to demonstrate to the Commissioner that its accountability rating should be higher and the Commissioner should be willing to review and adjust the rating to accurately reflect the academic performance of the school.
In closing, thank you for your careful consideration of these suggestions concerning the proposed 2016 Accountability Manual. We look forward to working with you to ensure that the Accountability Ratings System is an accurate tool for measuring the performance of schools.
 Page 77, Chapter 7 of the proposed 2016 Accountability Manual.
 Tex. Educ. Code §39.151(c)
 Tex. Educ. Code §12.1141(d) and §12.115(c)