Narrow scope is incomplete representation of school districts, campuses

Published 12:01 pm Monday, January 23, 2017

Editorial by Rickie R. Harris

In 2015, House Bill 2804 was signed into law by the 84th Texas Legislature. This statute made significant changes to the state public school accountability system including the creation of an “A-F” rating label for both school district and campus performance.

While these changes will not formally apply until the 2017-18 school year, the law requires the Commissioner of Education submit a report to the legislature in January 2017. Using data from the 2015-16 school year, this preliminary report shows what rating schools would have received within this new system in four of five categories.

The formal 2018 ratings will include A-F letter grades for each district/campus in the following domains:

I: Meeting standards at satisfactory and college readiness levels on STAAR.

II: STAAR annual improvement at satisfactory and college readiness levels.

III: Reducing “academic achievement differentials” from different racial/ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds; that is, closing the distance to a predetermined target for specific student groups.

IV: Academic attainments (other than STAAR) that differ by campus level, including drop out and graduation rates, Career Tech sequence completion, Advanced Placement course completion, Texas Success Initiative benchmarks and more for high schools; attendance, dropout rates and high school, college and career preparatory instruction for middle schools; and attendance for elementary schools.

V: Three self-selected categories of the Community and Student Engagement ratings.

These domains are weighted.

  • Fifty-five percent of the A-F system will be based on Domains I-III, which are developed from the results on STAAR tests and their recognized substitutes for STAAR end-of-course testing.
  • Thirty-five percent will be based on Domain IV which measures post-secondary readiness and graduation rates (10 percent of this calculation will be based on the graduation rate when this statistic is applicable to the campus).
  • The final 10 percent of the total district or campus score is derived from locally developed engagement ratings found in Domain V.

The preliminary look at this system released Jan. 6, 2017 by the Texas Education Agency clearly does not represent a total picture of our district or individual campuses. In fact, the 2015-16 data that forms the basis of the preliminary look is flawed due to a multitude of widely identified testing irregularities which occurred in the spring of 2016.

A number of professional organizations and districts have spoken out against this invalid rating system. In fact, our School Board has adopted a resolution encouraging the repeal of this harmful statute. The A-F system provides an incomplete picture of the complexities involved in serving children in Texas schools today. It harms schools with a significant number of children in poverty.

It shall be my position not to mourn the “challenges” that come from lesser scores from this rating system. Since this system is narrow in scope and validity, I cannot, in good conscience, propose we do otherwise.  We will continue to strive to provide an excellent educational experience for students in WOCCISD.

We are empowering lives through excellence every day!

Rickie R. Harris is the Superintendent at West Orange – Cove CISD.