Accountability ratings under scrutiny

Area educators are casting a wary eye at new school accountability ratings announced by the Texas Education Agency.TEA Commissioner Michael L. Williams announced the four components that will be part of the new 2013 state accountability system for school districts, campuses and charters in Texas. The first ratings under this system will be issued by the Texas Education Agency this August.Williams said the revised system will still rely heavily on student test scores, but also makes use of additional indicators aimed at providing parents and taxpayers greater detail on the performance of a district or charter and each individual campus throughout the state.The new accountability system will use a “performance index framework” that considers four areas (including student groups that are part of that index):• Student Achievement — A snapshot of performance across all subjects, on both general and alternative assessments, at an established performance standard. (All Students)• Student Progress — Provides an opportunity for different campuses to show improvements made independent of overall achievement levels. Growth is evaluated by subject and student group.• Closing Performance Gaps — This index emphasizes advanced academic achievement of the economically disadvantaged student group and the lowest performing race/ethnicity student groups at each campus or district.• Post-secondary Readiness — This index measures how well school districts prepare high school graduates for college, the workforce, job training or the military.District and campuses with students in grades 9 and above must meet targets on all four indexes. Districts and schools with students in grades 8 and lower must meet targets on the first three indexes, Williams said.TEA also is doing away with its system that rated schools and districts on a scale ranging from “Academically Unacceptable” to “Exemplary.” Instead, districts and campuses will receive one of three ratings:• Met Standard — Given to schools and campuses that met accountability targets on all indexes for which they have performance data in 2013• Met Alternative Standard — Given to schools which met modified performance index targets for alternative education campuses or districts• Improvement Required — Given to schools and disticts which did not meet one or more performance index targets.Williams said work will continue on converting this new system into a rating system that gives districts and campuses a letter-grade rating of A to F for 2014.Forsan Independent School District Superintendent Randy Johnson is a member of the “commissioner's cabinet” — a group of administrators who meet periodically and provide recommendations to Williams.“We asked the commissioner not to move forward with this, because it's going to change almost immediately,” Johnson said. “The (Texas) Legislature is meeting about enacting new standards, so soon after (the announced standards) are enacted, they'll be out-dated.“I'm not thrilled with the fact that these new standards are out and that we'll have to change it again in the near future,” he added.That uncertainty over exactly what standard schools will have to meet serves no useful purpose, Johnson said.“”Which is it going to be, and why do we keep changing things? That only serves to confuse people,” he said. “Let's stick with something.”