House Bill 2804 was passed in the 84th legislative session in 2015, and requires that the accountability system be changed from Met Standard/Not Met Standard to assign A-F ratings for schools and districts in 2018. These ratings will be based primarily on our state standardized test scores. Preliminary and incomplete “what if” ratings are scheduled to be shared in January, with official ratings to be determined in the fall of 2018.

Reducing the measures of a school or district to a single letter grade relies on complicated rules and calculations where no one will really understand what it means or how grades were assigned. The “rules” used to arrive at the A-F ratings are unknown and won’t be known until spring of 2018.

The majority of grades assigned by the A-F rating system will be based on students’ scores on the STAAR, a standardized test viewed as unreliable for accurately measuring student learning. An overwhelming majority of Texans recently surveyed by the State Board of Education have said they do not want standardized test scores to serve as the primary basis for the Texas school accountability system.

Districts across the state are opposed to this type of rating system, and believe, as do we, that a single letter grade will not accurately reflect the vast educational experiences we offer our students. Placing a label on a school will undoubtably establish unfair comparisons and assumptions that are not fair to our teachers or our students.

Additionally, grading a school fails to offer our public useful or accurate information about our schools. While we embrace and appreciate accountability, our concern is that a single letter is not the right system to communicate to our community how our schools are preparing our students for their future.

The A-F system lacks the letter “E”, which exemplifies Explanation, Evidence, Equity, and Equality. All districts are unique and are not created equal; therefore, a simple letter grade based on a complicated system is not transparent nor does it allow for differences in student populations. It is very likely that grades in an A-F system will align with wealth or poverty; therefore, resulting in a negative impact on children. Additionally, students who excel in programs such as athletics and fine arts are not considered in this rating system.

Based on research and information presented, the practice of rating schools and districts with A-F letter grades is a policy that fails every reason put forth for having the system. It is neither simple or transparent and misrepresents a large portion of what happens in schools. A-F ratings will do more harm than good, will create confusion among all stakeholders, and fail to offer the public accurate representation about their schools.

Educators would like to offer an alternative to the A-F rating system such as the development of a community-based accountability system that empowers districts to design their own systems of assessment and accountability that, while meeting general state standards, allows innovation and customization to match the needs and interests of our students and community.

Patti Hanssard is the assistant superintendent for human resources and the public relations officer for SFISD.

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