Keller Citizen

Area educators give new rating system a failing grade

Keller Superintendent Randy Reid talks with students at Keller High School.
Keller Superintendent Randy Reid talks with students at Keller High School. Courtesy

Keller, Carroll, Northwest and Grapevine-Colleyville school district officials see big flaws in the trial run of the state’s new A-F rating system, which debuted to the public Jan. 6.

“Honestly, I’m glad it looks to be as messed up as it is because this is not an easy thing to do,” said Keller Superintendent Randy Reid. “I don’t believe in A-F at all. I think it’s inappropriate to try to rank schools based on one test score.”

At their Jan. 19 board meeting, Keller trustees voted 5-1 to approve a resolution asking legislators to repeal A through F and develop a “community based accountability system that empowers school districts to design thir own internal systems” that meet general state standards while allowing districts to customize instruction to meet local needs.

Trustee Brad Schofield voted against the measure. He said that while the A-F system seems to be “riddled with problems,” Texas schools need to have one accountability system, not a thousand different ones.

On Jan. 23, Carroll, Grapevine-Colleyville and Northwest board members adopted similar resolutions calling for the repeal of A through F.

Schools and districts were rated in an unofficial trial run of the system based on four domains: student achievement, student progress, closing performance gaps and post-secondary readiness.

The actual grading system is scheduled for an August 2018 unveiling and will include a fifth domain based on community and student engagement measures selected by individual districts. This month’s sneak peek was a “What if” scenario based on 2016 scores on the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness.

As a district, Keller received two Bs, a C and a D, the D in post-secondary readiness. Carroll received three As and a C; Northwest, two Bs and two Cs; and Grapevine-Colleyville an A, a B, a C and a D.

Reid said that Keller educators wouldn’t focus on the grades but on individual student needs, looking at state test results, the district’s own assessments and reports of teachers.

“What frustrates me the most is the damage these ratings can do and the amount of time my staff has to put out fires and appease people who are concerned about what they’re reading,” he said.

‘Don’t live by the label’

Carroll district officials discussed their ratings at a Jan. 9 board meeting.

“If our district, where we’re preparing our students for four year colleges and a high percentage go to four year colleges, if we’re getting a C, we’re not really sure what’s going on there, ” said Janet McDade, assistant superintendent for student services.

She said administrators would check to see how they’re coding dual credit courses to ensure that those numbers were included.

Carroll Superintendent David Faltys said district educators encourage more focus on Advanced Placement courses because more than half of Carroll graduates attend college out of state where dual credit may not count.

McDade said she advised that people avoid over reaction to the As or the C. The system will change before grades come out next year.

“Don’t live by the label,” she said.

Look at multiple measures

Rob Thornell, Northwest assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction wrote a blog post that went viral, “What my kids have learned from going to an ‘F’ school.” In it he said the grades “are not a true picture of what’s going on in schools.”

“I’m not against accountability,” he said. “We have a moral obligation to be accountable, but we need to look at multiple measures and it needs to be easy to understand.”

Extra-curricular and student enrichment programs also should be part of the equation, not just scores on STAAR, Thornell said.

Grapevine-Colleyville Superintendent Robin Ryan wrote in his weekly online newsletter that A-F encouraged more focus on a single test when parents say they want less focus on the state assessment.

Ryan encouraged community members to contact their legislators to register their discontent with the new rating system.

Ryan wrote, “I am not against testing, and I am not against accountability. In fact, Texas students, teachers, principals and district leaders have never been more accountable in the history of public education. But this bureaucratic intrusion into classrooms has got to stop.”

Sandra J. Engelland: 817-390-7323, @SandraEngelland