Texas schools receive preview grades under new system

Schools across the state got a preview of academic accountability ratings from the Texas Education Agency under the new system passed during the last legislative session. The results revealed that many Central Texas schools would have scored very low under the new grading scale.

Texas Education Agency spokesperson Lauren Callahan said House Bill 2804 mandated schools update their academic accountability system from pass/fail to an A-F grading system.

"This is a work in progress report. These ratings that were issued on Friday are not the ratings that districts and campuses got for the 2015-2016 school year. This is a look at what the new accountability system  will look like," Callahan said.

Much in the same way schools have been grading its students performance, Texas schools will be receiving similar grades from the TEA. Schools will be graded under these five domains:

  • Student Achievement
  • Student Progress
  • Closing Performance Gaps
  • Postsecondary readiness
  • Community and Student Engagement.

The fifth domain, community and student engagement, will be rated by the school district and campuses.

"Having several domains that each get grades allows a campus and a district to really know (they are) doing really well in some of these areas and maybe in some of these other areas there is some improvement to be made," Callahan said.

Courtney Boswell, executive director of Texas Aspires, said they are in favor of the new system.

"We are really pleased with the thought and deliberation that has gone into (the new system). It paints a really clear picture, holistic picture of how students are achieving in schools and districts and how there are areas where we can improve," she said.

However, the Austin Independent School District is not. AISD received B's in the first two domains but received a grade of C and D in the final two. AISD did not make anyone available for an interview, but released the following statement.

"While AISD believes in school accountability, we believe this rating system still needs a lot of work. We'd also like to remind parents that the ratings TEA released today are not official ratings for campuses and districts.

While these are only, "what if," ratings, there are real consequences for our schools when seeing that they are given an A or an F, despite the achievements they have made. Under this system, a school can have a 90 and still be failing. That's not the grading system we use in our schools.

For example, post-secondary readiness is based on chronic absenteeism for elementary school students. Blackshear Elementary School is a national Blue Ribbon school. The school was used in one of TEA's best practices case studies project, and yet, it received an F from TEA in postsecondary readiness as well.

The system is confusing: Some of the same schools that received an academic distinction for post-secondary readiness were given a D or F for that category. This comes despite AISD graduation rates reaching an all-time high and our students outperforming the state and national averages.

Official A-F ratings for school districts will be released in August 2018 and TEA has said the development of the new accountability system will continue with additional input from stakeholders through spring 2018.

We will continue working with the TEA and Austin legislators to learn more about the new accountability system and to provide input as it is developed moving forward."

The ratings released on Friday are not official ratings for campuses and districts. The TEA said they will release the annual academic accountability ratings in August 2017 under the old "pass or fail" system. Meaning schools will not be graded on the A through F scale again until August 2018.

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