Making the Grade: A-F Accountability System

BRYAN/COLLEGE STATION, Tex. (KBTX) - The pressure is on for students to shine on STAAR tests. Results not only affect whether they'll advance to certain grade levels, they're also used to rate school districts.

"Assessment is high stakes. It's high stakes for schools and school systems," said Clark Ealy, College Station ISD Superintendent.

For the first time, Texas schools are getting graded the same way students are, with an A through F accountability system.

It grades on three criteria: student achievement, school progress, and closing the gaps.

"But the interesting thing about all three of the domains, they're all largely or 100% tied to the STAAR test," said Ealy.

Results from standardized tests grade districts on things like student improvement on the exam, how they're doing compared to similar districts and how well different student populations are doing.

In 2018, College Station ISD received a B. Ealy says the grade doesn't tell a complete story.

"It's a reflection of how your kid did on taking a test one day. It's not some total on how your student is doing academically, emotionally, mentally, and it's probably not an accurate reflection of what is actually going on in the classroom," he said.

Just north, Bryan ISD received a C on its report card.

"I don't run from accountability. I believe in accountability," said Christie Whitbeck, Bryan ISD Superintendent.

Whitbeck also thinks the A through F system leaves out important information when determining grades.

"As the poverty increased in a community or school in a school system, the accountability rating gets lower and why is that? Because it's tied to a state mandated assessment like the STAAR test that really ranks and sorts students," said Ealy.

"Even in a district like Bryan, there can be a great variance between an A and the level of poverty, an F and the level of poverty. In the state of Texas with school districts 60% or more poverty, only 10% got an A, and most of those are magnets where there's some form of criteria to get into the school," said Whitbeck.

The superintendents hope parents and community members look at more than just grades from the state when evaluating local schools.

"When we ask our parents, what is it that you really want for your student, what is it that you want from the school district? Nobody says high STAAR scores. None of them. They want to know that they have a teacher in their classroom who loves their kid and is competent."

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