A New Grading System Is Near for Texas Schools. But What Does It Mean?

AUSTIN — The state’s new grading system will give a better look at how schools are performing — and whether they are improving, Education Commissioner Mike Morath said.Texans will get their first look at the A-through-F accountability system next month. Morath gave a preview Friday of how the grades will be determined.While he cautioned that the system is still a work in progress, critics have already started lining up against the plan.The state will release its first “what if” grades on Jan. 6 — a preliminary look at what schools and districts would have earned if the system were in place now. The new grades won’t officially replace the current pass-fail system until the summer of 2018.Morath cautioned communities not to rush to judgment based on January's sneak peek because of the ongoing work. But once the system's in place, he said, rating schools with universally understood letter grades will be valuable to families. They’ll have a better understanding of how their schools are doing — and also how much progress they are making, he said.Morath, a former Dallas ISD school trustee, said when he was in that position, “it was extraordinarily difficult for me to tell for any given campus: is this campus getting better? Is it staying the same? Or is it getting worse? In a pass-fail environment, that’s incredibly difficult to do.”Critics are already pushing back against the new system, saying it unfairly characterizes schools with one simple label and could further stigmatize the most struggling schools by marking them as failures. They point to Virginia, which repealed such a grading system before that state could implement it because of concerns about the impact on such schools.Just this week, DeSoto joined Mesquite, Forney and about two dozen other districts across the state that have passed resolutions asking the state to scrap the new grading system altogether.Morath said there are many misconceptions circulating already. The most common is that the state is setting standards so that a certain number of schools must be labeled as D or F. That’s not the case, he said.Mathematically speaking, each school could be graded an A if all standards were met. But unfortunately, he said, Texas schools are a long way from that.How the grades will be calculated is anything but simple. Like people, it’s hard to judge schools based on one characteristic, Morath said.So the new system takes into account five different areas: the passing rates on STAAR, the state’s standardized test; student progress on STAAR; how well districts are closing achievement gaps for different student groups (such as those who live in poverty); how prepared students are for life after high school; and how well they engage students and parents. Then they will receive an overall grade.  Continue reading...

Copyright The Dallas Morning News
Contact Us