Imagine a teacher in her classroom moments before students arrive on a Monday morning.
She glances at her email and her eyes stop on a message stating that her school has received a rating of “F” on the state’s new accountability system.
There are explanations, but all she sees is an “F” representing her work and the work of her students and colleagues.
As her students enter, she smiles at them and thinks about the challenges many of them have — homelessness, hunger, illness, teen pregnancy, parental divorces, depression, poverty, death of parents/siblings and mobility.
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She then thinks of their incredible talents and potential.
She strives to keep them focused on what they can do to improve. She embraces this opportunity every day.
Few would know what these students are going through, because often they smile and laugh in class.
Her classroom is a safe place. They know she loves and cares about them. Learning is interesting and fun in her class.
She remembers their birthdays. She helps them when they struggle. She gives them second chances. She doesn’t let their challenges define them.
She watches as they mature, overcome adversity, improve and find a successful life after high school.
But she, her colleagues, her students and her school’s community are rated an “F.”
All of the work, compassion, challenge and success reduced to one single letter.
What is she supposed to do with an “F”?
How can she work to improve this grade when her school is negatively affected by the number of chronically absent students it has?
This includes medically fragile students, such as children battling life-threatening illnesses who miss school regularly. They will count as chronically absent right along with truant students.
How will she consider such a system fair and transparent when some of the criteria are out of her control?
How will she view a system that disproportionately punishes schools in disadvantaged communities?
Educators desire to have clear and transparent accountability, the kind that challenges our creativity and drives continuous improvement.
And we have accountability. We have a wonderfully elaborate system already in place that identifies the factors we need to measure and improve.
The result of the planned new A-F system is clear: Public schools will be undermined, shaping public sentiment under the mantra of clarity and transparency.
Even though A-F scores were published as provisional, these scores have already been used to chastise schools and to push legislation for school choice vouchers.
Undermining public schools undermines our communities.
Some talk of failing schools and students being trapped in a continuous circle of failure. It appears their only answer is to abandon these communities and take the lifeboat they call “choice” to another school.
What about those who remain? What happens to those communities, made up of real children, teachers, families and businesses who define themselves in part by their hometown schools?
Do we outsource social justice? Do we allow the creation of systems that are prone to division?
As part of Texas Public Schools Week earlier this month, schools and families across the state celebrated the achievements, opportunities and the many choices available every day in public schools.
As we prepare for upcoming state assessments this spring, we hope that we, as the adults who are shaping the future of our state and nation, carefully consider what we are doing.
Many talk of fighting for children. We must consider if this fight is for all children or only some.
Every human life is beautiful. It is imperative that we serve every child and resist those who endeavor to clutter our minds with division and discrimination.
Jim F. Chadwell, is superintendent of Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD. Randy Reid is superintendent of Keller ISD. Kevin Rogers is superintendent of Lewisville ISD. Jamie Wilson is superintendent of Denton ISD.