Schools, this year for the first time, are receiving a letter grade from A through F. The Texas Education Agency has promoted this change as a way to help parents evaluate schools more effectively.
In the past, we had the expectations approach. Schools failed and/or exceeded expectations. The evaluation of these schools is based on the same thing. The change has no meaning, except that in theory, parents can better understand giving a school a letter grade as opposed to failing expectations or meeting expectations.
The rankings are still based on standardized testing in various subjects. It’s a cosmetic change. Using new words to say the same thing doesn’t improve anything for the quality of our schools. Standardized testing is still not reflective of student learning and effective teaching.
The time spent preparing for tests and taking tests is a huge distraction from actual instruction. You can predict the scores of schools based on demographic factors like race, economic status or school spending. Teaching isn’t any better for this change. We’re not addressing the root causes of poor instruction.
In fact, there’s no proof that the A through F approach provides parents with more information about the quality of one school or the other. The assumption behind the change is that parents didn’t have enough information, under the old system, to decide if one school was better than another.
Since the ratings are based on the same metrics, there’s no additional information for parents. So, why did the TEA make this change?
The wording change is a bit more direct than “exceeding expectations” or “failing expectations.” In some minor way, it provides a bit more clarity in reporting the data to the citizens of our state. We’re still wasting countless hours and millions of dollars to prepare and take these tests.
As a professional educator, this word change is a classic example of political correctness getting in the way of actual improvement for our students.
We need a focus on how to make schools better. We should be talking about how to change schools to help students learn more effectively. How can we motivate teachers to teach more effectively? What resources both financially and structurally are needed to assist students in learning?
Changing how we package the message isn’t going to change schools for the better. We need real fundamental change if we’re going to create excellent schools for the children of the state of Texas.