WACO, Texas – Waco ISD is joining superintendents and lead administrators from 29 Central Texas school districts this afternoon to voice concerns over the Texas Education Agency’s initial report on its new A-F accountability system.
The state legislature mandated in House Bill 2804 that public schools receive letter grades rather than the current “Met Standard” or “Improvement Required” system. The new formula will not take effect until 2018, but the TEA released it to legislators, then schools, and now to the public.
The new system measures data in five different domains; STAAR scores at standard, advanced and college readiness levels; individual student growth; economically disadvantaged scores; absenteeism; and local programs (not included in this initial report).
Waco ISD’s concern is the A-F report grades every school district with the same formula and testing data points with no regard for local factors like demographics or curriculums. Assigning a school a single grade does not accurately reflect the entire educational experience our students receive on our campuses.
"This is simply one more way that public schools are placed in as bad a light as possible,” said Waco ISD Superintendent Dr. Bonny Cain. “It's hard to imagine campuses "meeting standard" in TEA's current STAAR accountability system, yet being assigned an "F" on TEA's report card system."
Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Kim Ellis explained, " This new system uses the same data from the most recent STAAR results, but the results are vastly different. Schools that received multiple Distinctions in the current system, now have an 'F' in some Domains.”
Here are some examples:
• One of Waco ISD’s top elementary schools Met Standard in STAAR Index 1 exceeding the state benchmark of 60 points with a score of 75. In the new formula that campus scored a 43 and got a “C” grade.
• One of our top middle schools Met Standard in all four indexes in the current system, but received a “B”, “C”, and two “Ds” using the new formula.
• Waco ISD exceeded the state average with all 22 campuses qualifying as “Met Standard” in Index 2, which measures student progress. However, in the A-F system more than half those schools received a “D” or an “F”.
“The A-F system also does not accurately reflect the progress we are making on many of our campuses," Ellis added. The ratings could possibly be based on a bell curve, so a number of schools would have to receive “F” and “D” grades.
More than 140 school districts across the state have adopted resolutions against the new accountability system, according to the Texas Association of School Administrators.
Legislators received the ratings while Texas schools were closed for the holidays, and the State Legislature convenes next Tuesday with leading lawmakers publicly saying they favor a voucher system and “school choice”.
"My suspicion is that if school vouchers become law, TEA's new A-F report card system will pretty quickly go away," Cain predicted.
State Commissioner of Education Mike Morath said in part today, “The ratings in this report are for informational purposes to meet a legislative requirement and represent work-in-progress models that are likely to change before A–F ratings become effective in August 2018. No inferences about official district or campus performance in the 2015–16 school year should be drawn from these ratings, and these ratings should not be considered predictors of future district or campus performance ratings.”
Waco ISD joins other local districts urging changes to the system that will reflect a more accurate picture of the challenges different districts face, and the progress our campuses make focusing on our key goal of providing the best education possible for our students.
Today’s news conference will be available for viewing in its entirety on WISD-TV beginning Saturday, Jan. 7 and also posted online at wacoisd.org.