By now I am sure that you have heard of the new A – F rating system for public schools. There have been numerous stories from around the state regarding this new system. Overall, not too many people have a favorable view of the A – F system. I want to take just a few minutes and explore, from Eustace ISD’s point of view, why this may be the case:
First, let’s go back to the Accountability Summaries that have been released for each one of our campuses and our district as a whole. These Accountability Summary sheets were released in September 2016. They list how a district (or campus) fared with respect to the 4 indices used in our accountability system. The indices include Student Achievement, Student Progress, Closing Performance Gaps, and Postsecondary Readiness. The district and each of our campuses met all the standards associated with these indices. All of our campuses and the district had the Accountability Rating of “Met Standard.”
The Summary Sheet also lists all the Distinctions that a campus earned. At the High School level, there were 8 different Distinctions possible. Eustace High School earned all 8 Distinctions. The Distinctions included: Academic Achievement in ELA/Reading, Academic Achievement in Mathematics, Academic Achievement in Science, Academic Achievement in Social Studies, Top 25 Percent Student Progress, Top 25 Percent Closing Performance Gaps, and Postsecondary Readiness.
At the Middle School level, 7 Distinctions could be earned. Eustace Middle School earned 3 of those Distinctions: Academic Achievement in ELA/Reading, Top 25 Percent Closing Performance Gaps, and Postsecondary Readiness.
There were also 7 Distinctions possible at the Intermediate School level. Of these 7, Eustace Intermediate earned 2 Distinctions: Top 25 Percent Closing Performance Gaps and Postsecondary Readiness. (The Primary School is paired with the Intermediate School for accountability purposes.)
Now let’s compare the A – F grade that each campus received in the different Domains (The “Domains” in the A – F system correspond to the “Indices” in the Accountability Summary Sheets. The state using different names from one system to another just makes it more confusing for people to understand.) For the High School, in Domain I, Student Performance, the letter grade assigned was a “C”. Even though the High School received every Distinction possible with respect to student achievement, the letter grade was only a “C”. As stated above, the High School earned every possible Distinction possible. Yet, the highest letter grade at the High School was a “B”. There appears to be a disconnect between the Accountability System and the A – F Ratings System.
As noted above, every campus received a Distinction for Postsecondary Readiness. Yet, in the A – F system, the district letter grade for Postsecondary Readiness is a “D”. How do you achieve a Distinction at every campus and make a “D” as a district?
One of the most perplexing grades was given to the Middle School in the area of Student Progress. The Middle School met and exceeded the Target Score in the Index, but was given an “F” in the Domain. To me an “F” represents failing. How can a school be failing in an Index in which they scored above the Target Score to earn Met Standard?
Included with the A-F grades are explanations for how each grade is calculated. Domain III offers an interesting explanation for the formula used. It states, “Based on slope-intercept form: y = mx + b.” To me, if you are having to call on the slope-intercept formula to explain anything in the A – F system, something’s not right. This is supposed to be an “easy to understand” system.
Finally, in the report given to our legislators, the Texas Education Agency has included 3 pages of “caveats” about the A – F Rating System. According to Google, a caveat is defined as “a warning or proviso of specific stipulations, conditions, or limitations.” If these ratings are supposed to be a true indication of how well our schools are doing, how can there be even one caveat, much less three pages of them?
At Eustace ISD, we are going to keep doing what is in the best interest of our students. We are not going to be defined by a number or a letter. Instead, we will continue to be defined by making decisions based on the needs of our children. If you have questions, comments, or concerns about anything, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, if you would like, please come by and visit me in person.