A-F ratings spur call for system change

A-F ratings spur call for system changeThe preliminary results for the Texas Education Agency’s new A-F accountability rating system, which were published Jan. 6, have school districts across the state concerned, especially about the portion of the ratings that measures postsecondary readiness.


In a Senate Finance Committee hearing Jan. 24, TEA Commissioner Mike Morath said he has heard “buckets” of feedback regarding the A-F system. He said there has been a small, quiet group in support of the evaluation, but a multitude of others providing negative criticisms.


“My concern is that it creates an inaccurate picture,” Conroe ISD Superintendent Don Stockton said. “I think there’s going to be a lot of discussion during the legislative session, so I’m confident that they’re going to get a lot of feedback and make a good decision about the future of it.”



A new system


The new rating system is required by House Bill 2804, which was passed during the 2015 Texas legislative session. The bill required the TEA to present an informational report to the state Legislature by Jan. 1.


The new A-F rating system, which will be fully implemented in 2018, will give districts and 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.A-F ratings spur call for system change


The results published Jan. 6 only measured the first four domains and reflect a system that is a work in progress, TEA spokesperson Lauren Callahan said.


CISD received an A in Domain II, a B in domains I and III and a C in Domain IV, according to the TEA data.


“Conroe [ISD], I think, fared very well overall, but it’s very confusing when you try and pair down what goes into each of the domains,” CISD board President Melanie Bush said.


Bush said she has spoken with local legislators about how ineffective and complicated the new system seems. Some districts like Klein ISD have already presented a resolution asking for the repeal of the system, Bush said. However, CISD does not have a plan to present a resolution of its own.


“I think [a resolution] is something that we’re going to be discussing,” Bush said. “But I think we’re also waiting to see what happens in the beginning parts of [the legislative] session to see if they realize where they are
on this.”


In neighboring school district Tomball ISD, which has campuses in the Village of Creekside Park in The Woodlands, Superintendent Huey Kinchen said he is also concerned about the new rating system. TISD received A’s in domains I and II, a B in Domain III and a C in Domain IV.


“School officials across Texas, including Tomball, are concerned about these ratings because they are based upon old data and cannot be regarded as a reliable benchmark for accountability,” Kinchen said.


Officials with the Texas Association of School Boards said they are not concerned by the accountability of the A-F system.


“We are not afraid of accountability at all,” said Debbie Gillespie, a regional director on the board for the Texas Association of School Boards. “I think that’s part of what has made public education better. But it needs to be fair, and it needs to be meaningful.”



Calculating Domain IV


Morath said although three of the categories within the new rating system have clear metrics, Domain IV—which measures postsecondary readiness—is a strange mix of remaining qualifiers that do not necessarily fit well together.


“It reads more like anything the commissioner can think of except for the STAAR test,” he said.


More than 60 percent of the nearly 1,000 school districts that received a grade in Domain IV received a C, D or F, according to the TEA. Conroe and Tomball ISDs both received C’s in this domain while Magnolia ISD received
a D.


Domain IV studies three variables at the high school level to measure postsecondary readiness: the graduation rate, the percentage of students graduating with a higher level graduation plan, and college and career readiness.A-F ratings spur call for system change


To measure college and career readiness, several indicators are considered, including SAT and ACT scores, postsecondary credits earned and the number of students who took Advanced Placement courses.


Callahan said the Domain IV ratings may change by 2018 because the TEA did not have all the data required under HB 2804. The bill requires the TEA to gather data it was not required to collect previously.


Under HB 2804, all campuses are to be graded on postsecondary readiness. However, each district’s overall score will only reflect its high schools in most cases. Districtwide Domain IV scores are determined by combining all of the district’s high school students into one calculation.


Domain IV scores for elementary schools are determined by the number of students who are chronically absent, and middle school scores are determined by the absenteeism rate as well as the dropout rate.


The problem with determining whether students are ready for college-level courses is that there is no common definition for college readiness, said Raymund Paredes, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board commissioner of higher education.A-F ratings spur call for system change


“There’s a great variance in what might be college readiness at a community college and what might be college readiness at [The University of Texas] or Texas A&M University,” Paredes said. “There’s no certain definition of college readiness.”


According to The College Board, nearly 32 percent of Texas students in the class of 2015 met the SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark.


“There’s a persistent problem with the numbers of students who require developmental—or what is also known as remedial—education before they are able to take credit-bearing courses, particularly at community colleges but also at universities across the state,” said Harrison Keller, UT deputy to the president for strategy and policy.



Next steps


Although school districts across the state have adopted resolutions to repeal the A-F rating system, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said the system would not be repealed or replaced. CISD officials said similar implemented systems have been repealed in other states.A-F ratings spur call for system change


“I think we’ve found in all of the states that have done this previously, that it has not worked,” Bush said. “We have 15 other states that utilize this type of system, and none have shown it to truly be that effective. Virginia recently repealed it. That says something.”


Bills filed to date during this legislative session either add more indicators to Domain IV or slightly change the wording in the Education Code for the accountability system. In a statement, state Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, who sponsored HB 2804, said the system is not going away.


“Our students and parents deserve a grading system that helps individual students, their campuses and their districts transparently measure academic success and clearly delineate where improvements are needed,” Taylor said. “I realize that some folks are frustrated with accountability, but the taxpayers of Texas deserve to know if their hard-earned tax dollars are being wisely spent and that our students are getting the quality education they deserve.”


During the Senate Finance Committee hearing Jan. 24, Taylor said he would devote part of this session to refining the domains so they would be better indicators of student performance going forward.


The primary author of HB 2804, former Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, retired in 2015. The joint bill author, Rep. Morgan Meyer, R-Dallas, declined to comment.


Additional reporting by Emily Donaldson and Anna Dembowski


*Lamar Elementary School in Conroe ISD received B's in Domains I-III and a D in Domain IV. This score was mistakenly left out in print.

SHARE THIS STORY


MOST RECENT

Houston 2026 World Cup Bid Committee
Houston vying to become host city for 2026 FIFA World Cup

Houston is among 17 U.S. cities in the race to host the World Cup and is competing against other major cities, such as New York City, Los Angeles and Dallas, for the nod.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner addresses the Texas General Land Office at a Dec. 11 public hearing. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Houston area leaders call for more federal flood dollars at public meeting

Officials expressed concerns about proposed limitations for how federal funds will be allocated throughout the state.

The Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District accepted the resignation of its board president Dec. 10. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District board president resigns; hydrologist contract terminated

The Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District meeting Dec. 10 brought two immediate changes.

Check out the annual Tomball German Christmas Market this weekend, Dec. 13-15, in Old Town Tomball. (Courtesy city of Tomball)
German Christmas Market: A guide to the Tomball event this weekend, Dec. 13-15

Take a look at our guide for attending the Tomball German Christmas Market this weekend.

Bigotes Street Tacos
Bigotes Street Tacos to open third location in Spring

The Spring food truck will be the eatery's third location.

HCA Houston Healthcare Conroe multidisciplinary team
HCA Houston Healthcare Conroe develops new heart surgery alternative

The hospital now offers a minimally invasive Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement, or TAVR, procedure to replace a narrowed aortic valve with a catheter, instead of open heart surgery.

Entergy Corp. representative Troy DeBeaumont presented an overview of the company's Wellman Road underground conversion project to council members Dec. 11. Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper
Shenandoah City Council approves spending on Entergy improvement project

City Council agreed to contribute $160,000 to the Entergy project, which the company said will diversify its electrical services on Wellman Road.

Woodlands incorporation
The Woodlands Township board develops schedule for possible 2020 incorporation vote

The schedule for a possible incorporation election in The Woodlands in the next year has become more clear after consultants presented an outline of next steps.

The Tomball ISD board of trustees unanimously approved the creation of the Tomball ISD Academy of Energy and International Business on Dec. 10, the first on-site education program of its kind in the state. (Kara McIntyre/Community Impact Newspaper)
Tomball ISD Academy of Energy and International Business to debut August 2020

The Tomball ISD board of trustees unanimously approved the creation of the Tomball ISD Academy of Energy and International Business on Dec. 10, the first on-site education program of its kind in the state.

Teora Music School launched in Tomball in December 2018. Courtesy Teora Music School
Teora Music School marks 1-year anniversary in Tomball

The music academy first opened near Creekside Park in December 2018.

kids painting on easels in the grass
Kids Castle Playcare now offering childcare in Spring

The drop-in center provides a variety of activities for children between six weeks and 12 years old.

shenandoah urban air adventure park
Urban Air Adventure Park launches in Shenandoah

The trampoline park and entertainment center is open for both daily visits and group events.

Back to top