Texas public schools to adopt new A-F ratings system

For the first time, Texas public schools will be graded based on an A-F system.

HOUSTON - HOUSTON -- A new accountability system will rate Texas public schools using an A through F rating.

Officially, the system won’t go into effect until August 2018, but the state’s taking it for a test run on Friday.

Public schools in Texas will use the test run as a gauge on where they stand using last year’s STAAR test scores.

Right now, campuses and districts are given one of two ratings: “met standard” or “improvement required.”

CHECK YOUR SCHOOL: Search for your school's A-F rating test run

In 2015, Texas lawmakers passed House Bill 2804, which calls for schools to be evaluated using letter grade A, B, C, D, F. The letter ratings will evaluate five categories the state is calling "domains" and one overall letter grade.

The Texas Education Agency created two videos to explain the new rating system.

WATCH: A-F overview video
WATCH: A-F domain video

The domain categories are student achievement, student progress, closing performance gaps, post-secondary readiness and community and student engagement. To simplify the state’s terminology, KHOU 11 News put the domains in more understandable terms:

  • Domain 1: How well do students perform on standardized testing?
  • Domain 2: How are students performing on standardized testing over time?
  • Domain 3: How are students from low income families performing compared to other students?
  • Domain 4: How prepared are students for college and life after graduation? This category is based off attendance, courses, dropout rate and graduation rate.
  • Domain 5: Community and student engagement. This category is based off different factors each school and district independently choose.

Ultimately, lawmakers made the A through F ratings for parents to get a better idea of how their school is performing in multiple categories rather than “met standard” or “improvement required.”

Ratings released Friday will not include Domain 5 or an overall rating. Over the phone Thursday, a Texas Education Agency spokesperson told KHOU 11 News school districts should not assume an overall rating from the four domains released Friday.

As of Thursday, 152 Texas school districts have adopted resolutions opposing the A-F school rating system provided by the Texas Association of School Administrators.

Alvin ISD Superintendent, Dr. Buck Gilcrease, opposes the system. However, his district is not currently listed on TASA’s resolution opposition list.

In a statement, Dr. Gilcrease says, “one of our elementary schools received distinctions from the state for ‘Top 25 Percent: Closing Performance Gaps.’”

The school was commended by the state. However, Dr. Gilcrease believes the school will now receive a ‘C’ for the same category.

Dr. Gilcrease’s full statement:

"The A-F rating system was proclaimed as a way to provide parents and community members with a simple system that provides increased clarity regarding campus and student performance. Unfortunately, as the system has been designed, it does not provide clarity and is anything but simple.  

"Community members understand, from their personal experiences, that an 'A' is 90% and above, and an F is 69% and below.  That common understanding does not equate to this rating system at all.  People are going to make a lot of false assumptions about what a letter grade means.

"As an example, one of our elementary schools received distinctions from the State for having 'Academic Achievement in Science” and “Top 25 Percent: Closing Performance Gaps.' This school was commended by the State; however, preliminary ratings indicate they will now receive some 'Ds.'  Using the campus data from the same school year, the State is assigning the campus a 'C' for “closing performance gaps”, the same area they received a distinction on earlier this year. The campus will also receive a 'D' solely for absenteeism.  Mind you, the campus has a 96% student attendance rate and medically fragile students were included in the states calculation. 

"Another one of our elementary campuses received 4 distinctions from the State (Texas Education Agency) earlier this year:

  • Academic Achievement in English Language Arts/Reading
  • Academic Achievement in Mathematics
  • Academic Achievement in Science
  • Top 25 Percent: Closing Performance Gaps o Using the same data from the same school year, the Texas Education Agency is now assigning the campus multiple 'C’s.'

"It just doesn’t make sense to us. We encourage parents and community members to ask their elected State Representatives and Senators to explain how their system, along with its 32 pages of metrics and calculations, produces a single letter grade for all the various aspects of a campus. 

"The calculations are so convoluted that parents are not able to pull meaningful information regarding the quality of instruction, and the letter grades are completely absent of any consideration for the countless opportunities a quality education affords students, such as STEM courses and clubs, career and technical education opportunities, community involvement, fine arts opportunities and so much more. 

"In 2012, our Board passed a resolution against high stakes testing.  Shortly after, our community as a whole, including many employers, developed a learner profile that places a priority on:

  • Strategic communication
  • Fostering skills that allow students to creatively assess problems, develop solutions and act to achieve results
  • Ensuring our students are innovative and adapt to various settings
  • Building empathy, compassion and open mindedness

"We are not going to disservice our students by isolating their education to skills assessed on an invalid multiple-choice test, particularly one that does not evaluate most of the skills our community values.  Our students are so much more than a single letter grade, and we owe it to our students to teach them as individual learners, despite what flawed State ratings may indicate. 

"If a parent would prefer that their child is taught in a classroom where the teacher gives one multiple-choice test for the year, ranks the students scores and then assigns the child with one grade for the year, then maybe the parent should consider the A-F rating scores.  

"If a parent wants their child’s teacher to know them as individuals, incorporate their interests into learning, tailor support based on individual needs, and allow the child to be inquisitive and creative in school, and offer many extra and co-curricular offerings, then these ratings hold absolutely no value."

The Texas Education Agency lists a more in-depth overview of how the system will work here.

(© 2017 KHOU)


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