The Austin Chronicle

Another Failing Grade

By Richard Whittaker, January 13, 2017, News

The first draft of Texas' new A-F accountability system for school campuses and districts has been released, and is already facing serious criticism. Last session, as part of omnibus education reform bill HB 2804, lawmakers voted to move from the current two-tier accountability system ("met standard" or "improvement required") to A-F grades by 2018. On Jan. 1, the Texas Education Agency issued initial draft results to legislators, then released those same results to the public on Jan. 6. Grades were calculated using four criteria (student achievement, student progress, closing performance gaps, and postsecondary readiness), with a fifth (community and student engagement) expected later. Under the current system, Austin ISD was classified by the TEA as having met standards. By the new metrics, AISD scored B, B, C, and D – not that anyone has a clear idea of what these grades are meant to represent.

Commissioner Mike Morath said in a statement that the standards are a work-in-progress, and that the finalized system will not take effect until August 2018. Texas Association of School Boards Executive Direc­tor James B. Crow called it "a flawed concept [and] a symptom of the larger sickness: an unhealthy fixation on standardized testing and standardized expectations." Similarly, Amy Francisco, communications director for the Texas Association of School Admini­strat­ors, wrote: "The research is clear: A-F school rating systems fail as an indicator of school quality."

One lawmaker has already proposed removing the grade scale. Rep. Mary González, D-El Paso, called the system "unjust and hardly transparent," and has filed HB 843, which would replace A-F with four standards: "exemplary," "recognized," "acceptable," and "needs improvement."

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