Leaders representing 80 North Texas school districts outlined a 2017 legislative agenda Monday that calls for doing away with a planned state accountability system that gives letter grades.
Superintendents and other school administrators gathered at Garland’s Curtis Culwell Center for a news conference a day before the the 85th Legislature convenes. The Texas Education Agency recently released a 400-plus page “what if” report aimed at showing how the controversial accountability system would work.
The “A-F” system, set to take effect in August 2018, would grade schools and school districts in five “domains” — student achievement, student progress, closing performance gaps, postsecondary readiness, and community and student engagement. The state’s current accountability system gives campuses and districts one of two ratings: “met standard” or “improvement required.”
Critics say the new system is flawed because it relies too much on STAAR results, which they say only offer a single-day snapshot of student performance. They also worry that the new system is weighted against low-income students and that it is a political manipulation to usher in a voucher program.
“Anytime you put a scarlet F on a community, it comes with a stigmatization — that’s failing classrooms,” said Micheal French, superintendent of the Terrell school district, east of Dallas. “If you come to Terrell ISD, by no means are any of our classrooms failing.”
French was among dozens of school leaders who showed support Monday for legislative priorities that also include pushing back against vouchers or education savings accounts and advocating for increased public school funding. Their platform can be found online at TexasStudentsMatter.com.
School leaders said their next step is to include parents in the conversation while taking their concerns to Austin.
“The key is going to be educating our stakeholders about the issues,” said Doug Williams, superintendent of the Sunnyvale schools district, east of Dallas.
The school leaders said they gathered Monday because the new accountability system has become higher profile in recent days.
“A lot of people are saying this is reactionary,” Williams said. “This is not reactionary. … ‘A-F’ is not a good plan. It is not a good system.”
Theissue escalated with the Texas Education Agency’s release of a 400-plus page provisional report last week. That report, made for the benefit of lawmakers, used 2015-16 STAAR test scores in the formula. It also rated schools and school districts in student achievement, student progress, closing performance gaps and postsecondary readiness.
The report is designed to offer a glimpse of how an A-F accountability model would look, but critics, including Fort Worth, Arlington and Birdville school leaders, have complained that it relies on old and flawed data — namely the STAAR tests taken in the 2015-16 school year.
State Education Commissioner Mike Morath has said that the report was created for informational purposes to meet a legislative requirement of House Bill 2804, which lawmakers passed during the last legislative session.
Morath emphasized that the “what if” report represents “work-in-progress models that are likely to change before A-F ratings become effective in August 2018.”
The new model was praised by Texas Aspires, a nonprofit organization that focuses on education issues.
“This system is incredibly fair and accurate,” Executive Director Courtney Boswell said in a press release.“It gives everyone involved appropriate goals and measures their performance as well as their progress.”
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.