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The scarlet letter on your neighborhood school

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Kristi Hassett
Kristi Hassett

by Kristi Hassett, Make Education a Priority Ambassador

If your child’s school had a performance rating of B on their marquee, would you assume that at least a part of that rating included the A-F grades your child is receiving daily in class? If you do, that assumption would be wrong.

The Texas Commissioner of Education will assign new performance ratings based mostly on how the students did on state-mandated tests, State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR), in 2017.

  • A = exemplary
  • B = recognized
  • C = acceptable
  • D or F = unacceptable

In the new system, STAAR accounts for 55% of the new rating. Another 35% is a combination of non-test measures such as graduation rates and the percentage of students who take advanced courses. With the last 10%, districts are allowed to choose between a provided list of “community choices” such as wellness and physical education, community and parental involvement, and the digital learning environment.

Knowing the strong correlation between home values and school ratings, what will this new system do to the community’s perception of their schools? How will this affect a school’s ability to hire and retain great teachers?

“If you want to bring about change to public education, wait ‘til the parents drive by the school and see the marquee out front with a C, a D or an F,” said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. One of the problems with his statement is that a “C” is supposed to be “acceptable” in the new system.

Another problem is the current use of the accountability system itself. This system is designed to rank and judge schools. What our students need instead is an “improvement system;” a system used to diagnose and then improve education for our students.

Last session the legislature created the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability. The commission is supposed to develop and recommend a new assessment and accountability system. The Texas Education Agency has guided discussions of accountability around the use of the new A-F system when only 14 states currently use such a system and some have already or are considering moving away from A-F labels.

Public education is the only governmental entity with a state, performance-based accountability system. How would cities like to be forced to hang a letter grade on each and every facility marquee based on factors the state has deemed are important? What would happen if one fire station had a better letter grade than another? What would happen if public hospitals were required to label their facilities? How would these state imposed criteria affect public opinion of those facilities?

Having these state mandated tests be the central factor in rating each and every school with a letter grade of A-F is not in the best interest of those schools or the communities they serve. Being forced to hang a “B” on the marquee of an outstanding school is a disservice to those students, teachers, staff and parents. This new rating system is based on things the legislature feels is important, not what our communities feel is important in our schools.

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