The Texas Legislature is attempting to scale back the A-F rating system for schools and districts statewide, even before the system officially launches.
Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Houston) and Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) filed bills in their respective chambers - House Bill 22 and Senate Bill 2051 - that would, among other things, reduce the number of A-F Domains from five to three. Huberty's HB 22 would push back the implementation of the system to 2019, rather than September 1, 2017.
The Austin-American Statesman reports, "The categories eliminated are ones that grade how well districts and campuses prepare students for careers and college and how well they reduce the performance gap between between low-income and higher-income students. Campuses and school districts would still be graded on overall student performance and progress and their “school climate” — how well they engage with students and the community. Some parts of the eliminated categories would be integrated into existing ones. Based on a preliminary review of the bill, Clay Robison with the Texas State Teachers Association said the bill still weighs heavily on standardized tests and will disproportionately hurt campuses with high numbers of poor kids."
Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath addressed chief concerns and questions this week during a live video feed hosted by the Texas Association of School Boards. Drive West Communications is tracking the latest developments from Austin.
As we know, under Texas' new accountability system, school districts and campuses in Texas will receive a letter rating of A, B, C, D or F based on points awarded in five domains of indicators.
How Academic Growth is Measured
Commissioner Morath said the Texas Education Agency has received a lot of feedback on “Domain II” and how points are awarded for academic growth on STAAR and changes may be coming.
“We are looking at what happens if you stay at a proficient level but did not have a 100 scale for growth,” Morath said. “We are considering that there will be some points awarded for maintaining. Those are just some of the changes we are in process of with regard to tracking growth.”
Points for Attendance
For attendance scores, Morath said eliminating calculations for Pre-K and Kindergarten have been discussed as a result of feedback received because they are not mandatory grades. There also could be changes in other attendance areas.
“We are looking at medically fragile and military students and the attendance patterns there,” Morath said. “Calculating the feedback, we will likely have changes there. We don’t have an option in regards to usage for attendance. We have to, in some form or fashion, but we will try to make those calculations as accurate as possible given the diversity of situations that we see in Texas schools.”
Socioeconomic Status & Performance
Morath also acknowledged the argument against A-F because it is “unfair” to lower income school districts. That’s untrue if you look at it as a whole, he said.
“In Domain I, there is very clearly a correlation between socioeconomic status and performance. Everyone who has worked in education knows this. It’s not to say poverty is destiny, but the correlation is strong,” he said. “If the A-F were just Domain I, I think the criticism would be accurate, but that’s not how the A-F system works. There are five different ways of looking at performance. In fact, if your Domain II score is higher than Domain I, then you get the Domain II score.”
Another concern: The proposal to measure proficiency (Domain I). The state was on this path to raise the measure of proficiency each year.
“We think that that is a bad plan,” Morath said. “We want to pause the standard where it is now so people can have an apples-to-apples method to compare each year.”
He said this type of overall grading system picks up where previous measuring tools left off.
“One of the shortfalls that we noticed from the No Child Left Behind era is a focus on the 'bubble kids,'” Morath said. “This is kids that are right at or below that level who get all of our attention to the detriment of other kids. Focusing on all these levels give attention to all students.”
Morath stressed that the A-F overview is still a work in progress, and they are listening to concerns and suggestions from trustees, superintendents and other school leaders. The TEA says the final A-F ratings become effective in August 2018.