In a swift and orchestrated move to take a stance against the state’s upcoming changes to the public school accountability system, a group of 29 Central Texas superintendents representing 31 school districts met in a crowded room at the Region 12 Education Service Center in Waco to discuss the pitfalls of the Texas Education Agency's new grading system.
Waco ISD Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bonny Cain led the effort to address the issue.
“After reviewing the A to F rankings of the various schools and district, we find that this accountability system does not provide an accurate “grade” of our schools,” Cain said.
Her peers earnestly agreed, however, Central Texas superintendents and districts are not the only voices echoing displeasure with the new rating system that was enacted by the 84th Legislature.
Mandated by Texas HB 2804, the proposed plan includes the creation of A-F rating labels for district and campus performance. It will not become effective until the 2017-2018 school year but it has already drawn much criticism from districts across the state.
As of Jan. 6, 2017, Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) confirmed that 160 school districts across the state of Texas have already adopted resolutions opposing the new rating system.
Today, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) publically released the results, or grades, that schools and districts would have received for the 2015-2016 school year (based on four of the five grading criteria). This was in an attempt to give districts and the public an idea of how the new system will work when it is finalized next year.
However, many have questioned whether the TEA’s timing of the document’s release, only four days before the 85th Texas Legislature is schedule to begin, could have been politically motivated
In addition, while districts have had little over a week to digest the information, legislators in Austin have had the results since before Christmas.
"We didn't get ratings beforehand,” Temple ISD Superintendent Robin Battershell said, referring to the lack of time the districts were given to review and absorb the material.
Battershell was passionate about the poor effect the new grading system will have on students. "Children develop differently - we need a system that takes that into account," Battershell said. "We were told all districts had a fighting chance to make an A. Statistically that's impossible."
Dr. John Craft, Superintendent of Killeen ISD, questioned the new A to F rating system’s ability to drive campus and district improvement.
"The new system sounds great, but the methodology is difficult," Craft said. "We need to stick to our mission each and every day."
One local school district, Axtell ISD, had 100 percent of their graduates accepted to college and yet still only scored a C on the upcoming A to F rating system. "TEA and legislators are in danger of losing their relevancy in assessment of value," said Axtell ISD Superintendent Dr. J.R. Proctor. “It's a detachment from reality,”
“If legislators and TEA do want to be irrelevant....they make laws. They need to make sense," Proctor added. “We are doing an A-plus job, the Region is doing an A-plus job,” he continued.
One Central Texas district, McGregor ISD, is one of only 22 districts in Texas to be ranked on the College Board’s AP District Honor Roll. This report consists of the 425 school districts in the U.S. and Canada that simultaneously achieved increases in access to Advanced Placement courses for a broader number of students and also maintained or improved the rate at which their AP students earned scores of 3 or higher on an AP Exam.
Kevin Houchin, McGregor ISD Superintendent, expressed his concern with the new A to Z accountability system.
"We were one of 22 school districts nationwide getting College Board recognition and we got a low grade in Domain 4," Houchin said.
Houchin also argued that the state’s assessment of his district does not correlate with the community's overall satisfaction with his schools. “Why is our database growing? Mine is up 30 percent. If they're not happy, why are they moving to McGregor?”
Midway ISD Superintendent Dr. George Kazanas, argued that even though we continue to focus on a one-day test, the current system makes “some sense.”
About the new A to F rating system, “the best word is ‘demoralizing,’ Kazanas said. “What are we doing in classrooms to encourage our students and teachers?”
“It's our calling and mission and we want success for our kids,” Kazanas said. “We say no to vouchers until an equitable funding system is in place.:”
Copperas Cove ISD Superintendent Dr. Joe Burns said it plainly.
“There's a rule with kids...teach, then evaluate. The A-F system won't do that. This is not a growth model, it’s a snapshot that captures them at their worst and discourages them. It does not define educators and the benefits from public education. Our goal is that every student finishes well!”