Ed­u­ca­tors weigh in on House’s school ac­count­abil­ity bill,

At pub­lic hear­ing, ed­u­ca­tors still don’t like the A-F sys­tem, but ap­pre­ci­ate ef­forts to lessen its im­pact.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Melissa B. Taboada mtaboada@states­man.com

About two dozen ed­u­ca­tion ad­vo­cates, many of them school district su­per­in­ten­dents, weighed in dur­ing a pub­lic hear­ing Tues­day af­ter­noon on pro­posed changes to a new state grad­ing sys­tem for schools and dis­tricts.

House Bill 22, filed by state Rep. Dan Hu­berty, R-Hous­ton, who is also the House Pub­lic Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mit­tee chair­man, would scale back the new A-F ac­count­abil­ity sys­tem, which is set to go into ef­fect in Au­gust 2018. State Sen. Larry Taylor, the Se­nate ed­u­ca­tion com­mit­tee chair­man, also has filed a bill sim­i­lar to Hu­berty’s.

While many ed­u­ca­tors said they dis­agree with the use of an A-F grad­ing sys­tem, they said they sup­port the bill and the changes it will bring, in­clud­ing the elim­i­na­tion of an over­all grade for cam­puses and dis­tricts, and de­lay­ing the sys­tem’s im­ple­men­ta­tion un­til 2019.

School dis­tricts across the state have ral­lied against the sys­tem since it was in­tro­duced in 2015, say­ing it puts too much reliance on stan­dard­ized test­ing and un­fairly pe­nal­izes cam­puses with high num­bers of low-in­come stu­dents, among other rea­sons, while pro­po­nents say the let­ter grades are eas­ier for the pub­lic to un­der­stand.

In Jan­uary, the state re­leased pre­lim­i­nary let­ter grades meant to give schools and the pub­lic a taste of how the new A-F sys­tem will work once it is fi­nal­ized, which prompted even more push­back.

“When the rat­ings came out, we heard from a lot of peo­ple. We heard from schools, par­ents, every­body,” Hu­berty said at Tues­day’s hear­ing. “I think we de­ter­mined it was fun­da­men­tally flawed.”

The bill would re­duce the num­ber of cat­e­gories for which schools and dis­tricts would be graded. Those in­clude how well they pre­pare stu­dents for col­lege and ca­reers, and how well they re­duce the per­for­mance gap be­tween lowand high-in­come stu­dents, two ar­eas in which dis­tricts and cam­puses demon­strated lack­lus­ter re­sults when pre­lim­i­nary scores were re­leased ear­lier this year.

The bill also would elimi- nate as­sign­ing a sin­gle over- all let­ter grade to each school district and cam­pus. In­stead, the bill would only give let­ter grades in each of the three cat­e­gories.

Com­mit­tee mem­ber Rep. Dwayne Bo­hac, R-Hous­ton, said the over­all grades should have been given a chance.

“I sus­pect the feed­back that you got was not very pos­i­tive,” Bo­hac said. “My son hates sum­ma­tive grades, as well, some­times. The A-F, my per- sonal opin­ion is, at least give it time to work as a sum­ma­tive grade rather than pitch­ing it out be­fore we’ve even given it a chance to op­er­ate.”

As mea­sures are de­vel­oped, Plano Su­per­in­ten­dent Brian Binggeli, who pre­vi­ously led a district in

Florida, where the A-F sys­tem al­ready ex­ists, asked the com­mit­tee to in­clude school district lead­ers and teach­ers in the dis­cus­sions.

“I’ve seen the best and worst of A to F grades,” Binggeli said. “Do­ing this right is more im­por­tant than do­ing this fast. You dra­mati- cally changed this leg­is­la­tion be­cause you knew defin­ing the qual­ity of schools sim- ply can’t be boiled down to a few test scores. Par­ents in Florida rose up against changes that model brought to schools, and they would do so here.”

Chloe Sikes of the Texas Latino Ed­u­ca­tion Coali­tion said the bill “takes some steps in the right di­rec­tion to­ward a strong and mean­ing­ful ac­count­abil­ity sys­tem,” by de-em­pha­siz­ing the role of test­ing in schools, ex­pand­ing col­lege readi­ness fac­tors and rolling back part of the grad­ing sys­tem, but she said dis­ag­gre­gated data of sub­groups should re­main, and grad­u­a­tion rates, in­stead of com­ple­tion rates, should be used.

DEB­O­RAH CAN­NON / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

On­look­ers, in­clud­ing Alief Su­per­in­ten­dent H.D. Cham­bers (left), watch as tes­ti­mony be­gins on HB 22 at the House Com­mit­tee on Pub­lic Ed­u­ca­tion at the Capi­tol on Tues­day. HB 22 would scale back the A-F ac­count­abil­ity sys­tem that has been crit­i­cized since its pro­posal in 2015.

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