The beginning of a new academic year can be hectic, but this year, school districts start classes as they await their first official report cards under a new accountability system that assigns A-F grades — an evaluation that has already drawn the thumbs down from about 600 school boards.
“While letter grades seem simple, no one can explain why a district receives an A or an F,” said Sunnyvale schools Superintendent Doug Williams in a recent statement. “Numerous pages of complicated calculations are used to reduce district performance measures — mainly standardized test scores — into a single letter grade.”
Williams is also the legislative chairman of the Texas Association of School Administrators, which opposes the new system.
More than 1,100 Texas school districts are expected to get these letter grades for the first time on Wednesday when they are released by the Texas Education Agency. The grades are part of the new A-F Public School Accountability System and are based largely on the results of the 2018 STAAR tests, or State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, and the End-of-Course exams.
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The grading system was established and fine-tuned during the last two Texas Legislative sessions.
An “A” grade is the highest rating and represents exemplary work while an “F” grade is an unacceptable rating.
“Every district will get a rating,” said Northwest schools Superintendent Ryder Warren during a recent Facebook Live session on the topic. “They will get an A, B, C, D or F.”
The state’s current accountability system gives campuses and districts one of two ratings: “met standard” or “improvement required.”
The new system met resistance from educators during the 2016-2017 school year, when the TEA released a “what if” report or “practice” run of the grade system. In 2017-2018, about 600 school boards adopted resolutions opposing the rating system, according to TASA.
Aledo, Arlington, Birdville and Fort Worth are among the dissenting school boards.
This year the state will release accountability ratings based on both systems so the districts will get A-F grades while the campuses will receive either “met standard” or “improvement required.” Next year, the A-F accountability system is expected to be fully phased in so school districts and campuses will both get A-F grades.
Educators are trying to inform parents about the changes and help ease confusion. The Texas Education Agency has shared information about the ratings via social media. The state agency also has an information page on its website, tea.texas.gov.
In the Northwest school district, educators launched an information campaign to help parents understand the changes.
“I didn’t want you to be sitting around next Wednesday, get this on the news — that this is the that way districts had been rated, this is the way Northwest had been rated — and you don’t know anything about it,” Warren said on the video.
The Northwest school district is sprawling district that includes portions of Denton, Tarrant and Wise counties. The district has three comprehensive high schools, including Northwest and Eaton. The district starts the school year with 24,100 students.