Today, Texas unveiled a new rating system for public school districts and campuses. Essentially a report card for schools, the system aims to inform parents and educators how schools and districts perform on measures such as achievement and growth.
Improving the performance of public schools is a task fraught with many pitfalls, and while some stakeholders are understandably resisting stricter accountability, the moral and economic imperatives of a competitive world do not simply vanish because of disagreement.
In Texas, 55 percent of third-graders are reading below grade level, and 52 percent are below grade level in math proficiency. Fifty-one percent of eighth-graders in the state also read below grade level, according to the Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness, and those figures are declining.
Additionally, a 2018 national assessment ranked Texas 46th in fourth-grade reading (declining), and 42nd in eighth-grade reading (also declining). Furthermore, 84% of Texas high school students fail to obtain a college-ready score on the SAT/ACT.
Passed by the legislature under two house bills, HB 2804 and HB 22, the A-F system assigns letter grades, ‘A’ for exemplary performance, through ‘F’ for unacceptable performance. Campus ratings are based on three factors:
- Student Achievement: For elementary and middle school students, achievement is solely determined on the basis of STAAR scores. High school achievement will be a composite of STAAR, college/career/military readiness, and graduation rate
- School Progress: Utilizes the higher score between academic growth (maintaining or improving STAAR proficiency) and relative performance (to other similarly situated schools)
- Closing the Gaps: Measures various student groups (race, economically disadvantaged, English learners, special education, etc.) via varied components and achievement targets to satisfy federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requirements
A detailed explanation of each aspect of the A-F Accountability System is available from the Texas Education Agency.
On a fundamental level, it is critically important that lawmakers craft a system of public education that allows all Texas students to learn and grow at grade level or above, but it unsurprisingly has met pushback from educrats more interested in keeping their own jobs than educating our children.
The Texas Association of School Administrators, staunch defenders of the status quo, dedicated webspace to fighting against the system, calling it a “mistake,” and arguing instead for community standards over state scrutiny.
While arguments against a single standardized state test are worth consideration, a patchwork of different community standards robs parents of meaningful comparisons. Additionally, STAAR has undergone recent revisions that give parents more tools, improvement incentives, and teacher input. Fears over the system treating high poverty schools unfairly are also circulating, although those concerns are addressed by the revised system.
This year, only school districts will receive official grades. Individual campus grades will be released in one year; however, interested parties will be able to view each school’s raw score and calculate a letter grade on that basis.
In addition to campus and district ratings, Texans may also view reports on the financial health of their local school district, including the outstanding debt-per-student, as well as the ratio of teachers to administrators and the average teacher salary.
For results and information about school district and campus scores, visit TXschools.org.