Two bills in Texas Legislature could revise controversial A-F school rating system

Two bills in Texas Legislature could revise controversial A-F school rating systemAfter Texas school districts, including Frisco ISD, called for a repeal or a change of the state’s adopted school accountability system, two bills were filed in the Texas Legislature to revise the rating system.

The A-F rating system, which was adopted in the 2015 Texas legislative session, is scheduled to take effect in the 2018-19 school year.
It will replace the current accountability system that simply states whether school districts met the standard under certain performance indicators. The A-F rating system will give districts and their campuses an overall grade of A, B, C, D or F, as well as an individual grade in five domains: Student Achievement, Student Progress, Closing Performance Gaps, Postsecondary Readiness, and Community and Student Engagement.

The Texas Education Agency released preliminary ratings Jan. 6 for the first four domains of the A-F system. The ratings showed FISD scored two A’s and a B in the first three domains but scored a C in Domain IV.

The bills filed in this legislative session would reduce the number of domains and include other factors to grade schools in each category.

State Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, who is the House Public Education chairman, filed House Bill 22 on March 9. State Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, who is the Senate Education chairman, filed Senate Bill 2051 on March 10.

Opponents of the accountability system said it weighs too heavily on standardized testing scores and does not accurately reflect whether students are ready for careers or education after high school. FISD board of trustees approved a resolution Feb. 13 calling on the Texas Legislature to repeal the accountability system.

Debbie Gillespie, FISD trustee and regional director for the Texas Association of School Boards, said neither HB 22 nor SB 2051 addresses the overall concerns with the A-F system.

“The letter grades of this rating system do not compare to how parents and students understand A-F grades for students, therefore making these grades confusing and not a true picture of what our students and our district accomplish every single day,” she said. “HB 22 does address the implementation date and some of the student progress indicators. However, there are still parts that are not defined and overall still weigh heavily on standardized testing.”

If passed, HB 22 would make the following changes to the A-F accountability system:

  • The official implementation of the A-F system would be pushed back from August 2018 to August 2019.

  • Schools and districts would be graded on three domains instead of five. These domains are Student Achievement, School Progress and School Climate.

  • Domains would focus less on standardized testing. The Student Achievement domain would be limited to incorporating standardized tests as only 50 percent of its overall score.

  • Indicators within each domain will be geared toward different factors for students in high school compared with students in middle and elementary schools.

  • In the previous system, the TEA would intervene in schools awarded a cumulative D or F score. In the new system, the TEA would get involved only with schools awarded F grades.

Taylor’s bill is similar to Huberty’s bill, but it has a few differences.

  • The official implementation of the A-F system would be moved up from August 2018 to September of this year.

  • Schools and districts would be graded on three domains instead of five. These domains are Student Achievement, School Performance and School Climate.

  • One of the indicators for the School Performance domain would measure how well a district performs compared with other similar school districts.

  • Indicators within each domain will be geared toward different factors for students in high school and will remove factors for students in middle and elementary schools.

Many indicators that would measure the Postsecondary Readiness domain under the current A-F system have been moved to other domains in both bills. These indicators include the number of students who complete a sequence of career and technical education courses and the number of students who enlist in the military.

Though many school officials are still weary of the A-F system, some say they are pleased that this legislative session is making changes to the system.

“It’s not as though we are saying we’re advocates for A-F systems,” Casey McCreary, assistant executive director at the Texas Association of School Administrators, told The Texas Tribune. “But we’re appreciative that the chairs of public education on both sides of the Legislature are taking a look at what we can do to improve it.”


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