TEA’s A-F accountably system draws ire

Lyndel Moody
Staff Writer

A newly released work-in-progress report by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) on a new accountability system for public schools has drawn some strong criticism across the state.
Particularly irksome to school officials is a list of “what if” ratings for all school districts and individual schools based on what they would have received for the 2015-2016 school year under the proposed system.
Under the current system, school districts and individual schools are given either met standard or improvement required designations based on their students’ academic performance on standardized tests. The new system, which is expected to take effect in Aug. 2018, replaces the current one to a letter grading system both for overall performance and in each of five areas or domains used to track academic performance.
Those domains are Student Achievement (Domain I); Student Progress (Domain II); Closing the Performance Gaps (Domain III); Post Secondary Readiness (Domain IV); and Community and Student Engagement (Domain V).
The rating list released Friday shows many West Texas and Texas school’s as a whole not making the grade.
In particular, Big Spring ISD received Fs in both Student Achievement and Closing the Performance Gaps, a C in Student Progress, and a D in Post Secondary Readiness. Coahoma ISD did not fair much better. Coahoma received a D in Student Achievement, Fs in Student Progress and Closing the Performance, and A in Post Secondary Readiness. Forsan, whose district has done very well under previous accountability ratings, received three Bs — Student Achievement, Closing the Performance Gaps, and Post Secondary Readiness — and a C for Student Progress.
In contrast, Borden County which has excelled in the past years under the current accountability system received a B for the Student Achievement, two Cs for Student Progress and Closing the Performance Gaps, and an A for Post Secondary Readiness.
TEA did not give an overall letter rating for school districts and only gave ratings for four out of the five domains. The agency pointed out the work-in-progress report was fulling a legal requirement to Texas Legislature and not meant to be a reflection on what is occurring at the district level.
“It is important to note that the Met Standard/Improvement Required ratings issued in August 2016 and updated in November 2016 are the official academic accountability ratings for the 2015–16 school year. A similar process will be used for the 2016–17 school year,” Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath stated in a new release Friday.
Big Spring ISD Superintendent released a statement Friday pointed out the A-F system “is not yet finalized and measurement components have not yet been explained to public schools which makes the release of ratings premature and deficient.”
“For years now, as we have struggled mightily to improve our academic rating — and succeeded in the effort — the state has watched at a comfortable distance from the real-world problems we face, and placed labels on us and our students,” Wigington said. “It is appropriate to point out that the A-F rating system does not adequately consider the differences in the degree of difficulty faced by educators in rural West Texas communities.
Wigington is not alone in his criticism.
“The Texas Legislature’s requirement to grade schools on an A-F scale is a flawed concept, and the preliminary ratings released to the public today (Friday) fail to provide meaningful information about schools,” said James B. Crow Texas Association of School Board executive director in a news release. “These new A-F ratings are just a symptom of the larger sickness: an unhealthy fixation on standardized testing and standardized expectations.”

To view the full report, visit the TEA website at  http://tea.texas.gov/Student_Testing_and_Accountability/Accountability/A....