The New TEA Accountability System for Schools Gets an F

The New TEA Accountability System for Schools Gets an F

by Susan Neuhalfen

The Argyle Independent School District as well as many schools in Texas got their first taste of the new school accountability rating system recently which grades schools on a scale of A-F. This new system, which was touted to simplify the process, has caused an uproar across the state by schools that feel the grades simply don’t reflect an accurate overall score for their school.

The 84th Legislature passed HB2804, changing the Texas school accountability system so that each campus would be graded on five “subjects” known as domains. Those grades were then combined for an overall GPA of the school. The domains are as follows:

Domain 1: Student Achievement
In alignment with the 60X30TX plan, 60% of Texans aged 25-34 should possess some form of post-secondary credential. In order to keep with this plan, an “A” rating in Domain I requires that 60% of students taking the STAAR exam score at a Postsecondary ready level or higher.
Advantage: This rates all of the students on the same level with the STARR exam.
Disadvantage: This only accounts for one test and not the overall school experience.

Domain 2: Student Progress
Domain II measures each student’s scale score on STARR this year versus last year. Students who maintain the same level of proficiency as the year before are designated as having met expected growth. Those who gain a proficiency level are designated as having accelerated growth. Schools get one point for expected growth and two points for accelerated growth with zero points for below expected. Scores for this domain are then tallied for each student.
Advantage: This rates all the students on the same level with the STARR exam.
Disadvantage: Again this doesn’t take into account overall progress – just one test. This only rates math and reading exams because they are the only ones that are tested every year.

Domain 3: Closing the Gaps
This domain examines how well each campus is doing in terms of student achievement for their economically disadvantaged students. Schools in Highland Park and other wealthy areas don’t qualify for this. In Argyle, these students make up a small percentage of the school. That doesn’t stop the state from leveraging 20% of the grade on those few students.
Advantage: If your school is primarily low income, there is a greater chance for a better grade simply by virtue of the number of students. If your school has no low income students it does not affect that school.
Disadvantage: If your school is not primarily low income, 20% of your grade is based on a performance of a very small percentage of students. i.e. At Argyle Middle School, 20% of their grade will be based on the scores on 43 students out of a possible 600. So the state is telling them that they need to focus 20% of their resources on 43 students?

Domain 4: Postsecondary Readiness
35% of the school’s grade is dependent upon this domain, which is basically the attendance and dropout rates. At the elementary and middle school levels this will take into account chronic absenteeism. At the high schools, it will take into account attendance, dropout rates and graduation rate. It will also examine the percentage of students who graduate ready for college, industry credential or appropriate CTE course or the military.
Advantage: It gives schools more incentive to work toward less absenteeism and dropout rates.
Disadvantage: For schools (elementary, intermediate and middle) that allow students a week off for vacations or mission trips, it works to their disadvantage. Schools have to have a 98% attendance to get an A.

Domain 5: Parent and Student Engagement
This section will rate community and student engagement but final measures have not been determined by TEA. It was not used for the preliminary test.
Schools in the area were given a preliminary look at what their scores would be. Because of the problems with the STARR test this year, schools were not able to get an accurate
overall rating.

Here are Argyle ISD’s scores:
Domain 1: Student Achievement A
Domain 2: Student Progress A
Domain 3: Closing Performance Gaps F
Domain 4: Postsecondary Readiness C
Domain 5: (not used for current test)

“Each school is much more than one test,” said Argyle Middle School Principal Scott Gibson. “This doesn’t take into accountability things like extra-curricular activities, and all of the things that make up a great school.”

The Argyle School Board agrees with Gibson and has issued a resolution calling on the Texas legislature to repeal the A-F rating system. According to the Texas Association of School Administrators, over 150 school districts across the state have asked the legislature to repeal this new accountability rating system.

A-F ratings systems can also negatively impact neighborhoods and property values, affecting residents whether or not they have children in schools. Though this was only a preliminary rating, educators are hoping the system is revamped before the ratings count beginning in August of 2018.

“This is a political battle and our kids are caught in the middle of it,” said Gibson.

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