AUSTIN — The Texas Education Agency on Aug. 15 released 2018 campus accountability ratings and, for the first time ever, A-F district accountability ratings.

More than 8,700 independent school campuses received a rating of Met Standard, Met Alternative Standard or Improvement Required. Some 7,260 public school campuses and 558 charters were rated Met Standard or Met Alternative Standard, while 293 public school campuses and 56 charters were rated Improvement Required. Some 86 campuses would have received an Improvement Required rating but were affected by Hurricane Harvey to an extent that they were labeled Not Rated: Harvey Provision. Also, 506 campuses received a Not Rated label for reasons other than Hurricane Harvey.

Top performers lauded

Some 153 Texas school districts and district charters received an “A” rating under the A-F state accountability system, Education Commissioner Mike Morath announced. 

“Achieving an A rating reflects the hard work and commitment of everyone within a school district, starting with our classroom teachers,” Morath said. “We should all celebrate the outstanding work of these dedicated educators. Districts with high levels of poverty who attain this high level of performance are proof positive that poverty is not destiny. With strong instruction and curriculum, all students can succeed.” 

The A-F ratings are based numerical grades in three areas: 

— Student Achievement, showing how much students know and are able to do at the end of the school year; 

— School Progress, showing how students perform over time and how that growth compares to similar schools; and 

— Closing the Gaps, showing how well different student groups within a school are performing.

School and school district report cards can be viewed at TXschools.org.

Paxton praises 5th Circuit

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Aug. 16 commended a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit for upholding a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit by three University of Texas at Austin faculty members.

The UT professors challenged Senate Bill 11, the campus carry law, claiming that the legislation passed by the Texas Legislature in 2015 would have a “chilling effect” and stifle discussion in their classrooms. SB 11 took effect Aug. 1, 2016.

“The right to keep and bear arms is guaranteed for all Americans, including college students, and the 5th Circuit’s decision prevents that right from being stripped away by three individuals who oppose the law enacted by the Legislature,” Paxton said.

In July 2017, a U.S. District Court dismissed the professors’ complaints on the grounds that they were baseless and without legal standing.

‘Watch app’ recommended

The Texas Department of Public Safety and Gov. Greg Abbott on Aug. 16 encouraged school staff, parents, students and community members to download the new “iWatchTexas” mobile application “to help law enforcement protect Texans.” 

At the direction of Gov. Abbott, DPS launched the mobile application in June to make it easier for the public to report suspicious activity, including criminal, terroristic or school safety-related threats.

Safe driving is promoted

The Texas Department of Transportation has renewed its annual effort to prevent drunken driving during the Labor Day holiday weekend.

TxDOT Executive Director James Bass on Aug. 16 said, “It’s completely irresponsible and absolutely inexcusable to drink and drive. Finding a sober ride is easy, and it can save you from being arrested or from injuring or killing yourself or others. Make an effort to plan ahead for a sober ride this Labor Day weekend. You owe it to yourself and everyone else on the road.”

Bass promoted the agency’s anti-drinking and driving “Plan While You Can” campaign and recommended the website SoberRides.org as a source of alternatives to drinking and driving, such as:

— Designating a sober driver or calling someone for a sober ride home;

— Contacting a taxi or ride-share service;

— Using mass transit; and

—Spending the night.

Bond rating is highest

Texas has received the highest credit ratings for this year’s Texas Tax and Revenue Anticipation Notes, allowing the state to manage its cash flow needs for fiscal 2019.

State Comptroller Glenn Hegar made the announcement on Aug. 10, saying the ratings issued by the financial services companies Standard & Poor’s, Fitch, Moody’s and Kroll are the result of “conservative economic leadership and sound policies.”

The notes are sold to help fund school payments and manage cash flow between the start of the fiscal year and the arrival of tax revenue later in the year. This year’s $7.2 billion TRAN sale is set for Aug. 22.