School Districts: A-F rating system unfair

Published 8:18 am Saturday, December 24, 2016

By Dawn Burleigh

The Orange Leader


Earlier this month, Texas Education Agency announced Texas will begin assigning letter grades of A-F to public schools and districts — grades that will be based primarily on students’ STAAR results. This change in the public school accountability system is a result of the passage of HB 2804 in 2015.

Local School Districts are not happy.

A open letter to the community from all five superintendents stated the reasons for opposing the system are:

  • The A-F rating system is unfair to the students that we serve.
  • The A-F rating system is unfair to teachers.
  • The A-F rating system is unfair to communities.
  • The A-F rating system is based on an unfair test

The full letter can be found online at

In August, West Orange – Cove CISD announced it would appeal the expected TEA accountability ratings. . This preliminary data reflected incomplete test data assigned to West Orange – Stark High School. The anticipated TEA rating is currently based upon 336 End of Course assessments.  According to WOC records, more than twice that number of assessments were administered during the spring End of Course assessment window.

Additionally, WO-S Middle School accountability information may be incomplete, as well. At this time, WOCCISD is communicating with TEA and ETS regarding the situation.

The district notified the Performance Reporting Division of the Texas Education Agency and Educational Testing Service (ETS) immediately upon learning of the discrepancies.

The source of the High School problem was traced to an Educational Testing Service (ETS) school coding error on the cover page of West Orange – Stark High School tests. The cover page code assigned the test documents to West Orange – Stark Middle School, rather than to West Orange – Stark High School.

WOCCISD staff did not identify the cover page coding error in sufficient time to submit corrected information for accountability purposes.

Ratings will be released. Aug. 15. The window to appeal a TEA rating is Aug. 12 through Sept. 30.

West Orange – Cove expects the August rating to be modified in December following a successful appeal.

The school district was successful in the appeal.

In a press release, WOCCISD stated, “In our Nov. 15, 2016 appeal notification letter, TEA said, “As stated in the 2016 Accountability Manual, appeals based on an error attributable to the testing contractor are favorable. For this reason, your appeal is granted.”

West Orange – Stark High School is rated Met Standard, like all other WOCCISD campuses.

As stated in the same TEA letter, “When a district or campus rating is changed as the result of an appeal, the data and calculations on which the original rating was based are not changed; only the rating itself is changed. The Accountability Summary and all other reports related to accountability for the 2015-2016 school year will include the same data and calculations as do the original reports. The overall rating, however, will be changed to Met Standard.”

Therefore the new accountability letter grade which will be released soon will still utilize incomplete WOCCISD data.”

“WOCCISD is appreciative of the rating change; but we are very concerned with a letter grade that incorrectly reflects the success of our schools,” WOC Superintendent Rickie Harris said. “While the January letter grade is for information purposes only and carries no TEA-related impact for schools, it, however, will unfairly publicly misrepresent the work of our students and teachers. That misrepresentation will occur because the grade is based upon incorrect core data. The rating will be erroneous.”

As another Texas Legislature with the authority to change the law that established Texas’ A-F system prepares to meet, it is imperative that stakeholders know that the research is clear: A-F school rating systems fail as an indicator of school quality. In addition, in 2016, when surveyed by the State Board of Education, a majority of Texans said they do not want a public school accountability system based primarily on students’ standardized test scores.

January 1 is the deadline for TEA to submit a report to the Texas House and Senate Education Committees showing the ratings that schools and districts would have been given if the system had been in place for the 2015-16 school year.

In a resolution passed by the WOCCISD Board of Trustees concerning the A-F Accountability Rating System for Texas Public Schools the West Orange-Cove CISD Board of Trustees calls on the Texas Legislature to repeal the rating system utilizing A through F grades for schools and districts and develop a community-based accountability system that empowers school districts to design their own internal systems of assessment and accountability that, while meeting general state standards, allows districts to innovate and customize curriculum and instruction to meet the needs and interests of each student and their communities and a new system should reduce the use of high-stakes, standardized tests, encompass multiple assessments, reflect greater validity, and, more accurately reflect what students know and can do in terms of the rigorous standards.


An Unfair Game


An Open Letter to Our Communities. Read more …


Little kids are notorious sticklers for fairness. Don’t believe it? Try giving one child a piece of candy and the other a pat on the head for a job well done. Then just sit back and watch the outrage!


Or, consider this classroom scenario. A teacher makes a research assignment but doesn’t specify a required number of pages. Some students turn in five pages, others submit 10-15 pages, and still others write 20+ pages. After the assignments are completed and turned in, the teacher decides that all papers with less than 10 pages will receive an F and only papers with 20+ pages will receive an A. How would you feel if this happened to your child? How would you respond? Would your complaint be valid?


Each of us possesses an innate sense of fairness. We understand that we should take turns, play by the rules, and give everyone a chance. We understand that the criterion has to be set ahead of time and shared before play commences. We understand that taking advantage of anyone, but especially those you claim to support is unethical and unfair.


That’s why it is so surprising to realize that the State Legislature is implementing an A-F rating system that is unfair to students, teachers, schools, and communities.


In 2015, the 84th Legislature enacted HB 2804 which in turn established an A-F rating system for public school districts and campuses to be implemented September 1, 2017 (TEC §39.054). It is important to realize that the rules of the game were not established before Spring 2016 testing and that the Texas Education Agency has released A-F ratings eight months before the program rating system was legally scheduled to begin.


As school leaders, we oppose the A-F rating system for the following reasons:


  1. The A-F rating system is unfair to the students that we serve.


Most school districts in our area serve a high percentage of economically disadvantaged students. These students encounter educational obstacles on a daily basis -including lack of food and other basic needs that make it difficult for parents and students to prioritize education. Quantities of research and even common sense tell us that educating children of poverty and students with English Language barriers is more difficult and more time consuming than educating affluent students. Poverty and English Language competency are such dependable predictors of student failure that we can state assuredly, before the A-F system is implemented, that the more affluent districts will receive the highest ratings in this A-F system.*


Do you know that special education students and Gifted and Talented students take the same test with the same passing standard? Is this fair to students? Nevertheless, the state continues to rate diverse Texas districts and diverse Texas students as if they were all the same. Comparing districts without understanding the challenges and barriers each independent district must overcome is simply not fair. It is just another attempt to mislabel public education as a failure and mislead the public with false data.


  1. The A-F rating system is unfair to teachers.


This system vilifies and marginalizes the tireless efforts of skilled and caring teachers, leading to poor morale and the eventual loss of our greatest teachers to districts that receive high ratings so that they can receive the respect and work environment that they are due. Is school success sustainable when it loses its best and brightest employees?


  1. The A-F rating system is unfair to communities.


The final injustice of this rating system will be borne by our communities. Affluent districts that receive A’s based on their economic status will continue to draw business and families that want their children to attend an “A” district. Districts with higher levels of poverty and changing demographics will be passed over, thus creating yet another unfair system designed to leave impoverished children with poorer schools and communities. Is this not just another example of discrimination against the poor and people of color?


  1. The A-F rating system is based on an unfair test.


Two years ago, House Bill743 required the Texas Education Agency to conduct a reliability and validity study of the STAAR exam used in the A-F rating system before the next test administration. Not only did TEA fail to comply, a summary of the analysis concluded that the test was reliable and valid but not aligned with the state curriculum. In other words, the test questions did not measure what the students were taught that year!** Nevertheless, the state will use this questionable test as the primary way to identify and label school districts.


The greatest irony of the entire A·F rating system is that it has been generated by a state government that scores an “F” on every national report card with regard to school finance.***


It is time for schools and the communities that they represent to cry “Foul”. It is time for the State of Texas to realize that a sense of fairness is the basis of human cooperation AND unfairness, or discrimination, is the basis of most human conflict. It is time for our government leaders to treat public schools fairly and stop demonizing them in the name of politics and profit. Most importantly, it is time for communities to let the state legislature know their wishes for 1b.W schools: a fair accountability system and the resources needed to support education for all.



Orange County Superintendents


Mr. Todd Lintzen

Bridge City ISD


Dr. Pauline Hargrove

Little Cypress-Mauriceville CISD


Dr. Stephen Patterson

Orangefield ISD


Mr. Rickie Harris

West Orange-Cove CISD


Dr. Jay Killgo

Vidor ISD