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.

Joseph A. Willis lives in Galveston.

(5) comments

Bailey Jones

"You can predict the scores of schools based on demographic factors like race, economic status or school spending." Exactly. Equal opportunity cannot exist where there is unequal education. Fix it.

Richard Illyes

Rearranging the education deck chairs doesn’t address the real problem, that education is a government monopoly.



We should let government pay for it, but not provide it. We should create an educational endowment for each student. Students should become customers for educational services, not inmates in a government system. There should be a free market in education.



With an educational endowment system, the money would be paid out only when that student achieves a specified annual level. Yes there would be tests. The perpetual professional government educational employee statement that tests detract from teaching are total nonsense. Life involves tests. Want to drive a truck, you pass a test. Want to fly an airplane, pass a test. Want to be a lawyer, pass a test.



If the money was not paid out for poorly performing students, poor students would become much more valuable to educators who can catch them up. Bringing a 16 year old up from sixth grade level to tenth would pay four years of payments to the successful educator.



Instead of being unmanageable problems, under-performing young adults would have mentors who really involved themselves and who had serious financial stakes in their student success rates.



Unpaid funds should stay in each student account indefinitely, allowing people who finally get their act together as adults to obtain an education. Our present system basically abandons dropouts, adding to their and society’s problems.



Until we end this government monopoly, nothing will change, education will continue to cost more, and this kind of handwringing nonsense will be published endlessly.

Gary Miller

Richard> I agree but you failed to mention the poorest funded students are exceeding the performance of government run "public" schools. Faith based, private and State Charter schools match or exceed public schools with far less, often half, the funding of public schools. Public schools should be required to match performance equal to their funding compared with schools with less funding. For too long more money has become less education. Eliminating the non teaching "support staff" that consumes most of public school "teaching" budgets would be a start.

Richard Illyes

Until we end the government monopoly and let the free market provide educational services nothing will change. Once we change how it is financed, at the student level, everything will change.

Jose' Boix

I think that each ISD should select a set of own key indicator parameters defining what constitute success. Then trend-track, evaluate-correct and compare annually for several years. Keep the parameters the same and manage to see a continuous improvement - a general upward slope. Using State indicators which change seemingly every year is counter-intuitive and counter-productive, and unless using trends over time, snap-shot data is meaningless. Just my thoughts.

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