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.
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.
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.