In 2015, Texas legislators passed a law requiring the Commissioner of Education to develop a report that would give each public school in the state a rating using letter grades from A to F in five domains, or areas. The Commissioner has prepared a preliminary report for all schools using 2015-2016 data for the Legislature that is his first attempt to comply with the law. This report is one possible demonstration of an approac that assigns letter grades to each school.
According to Sidney Harrist, AISD Superintendent, these first preliminary ratings are based on a system that is not proven by research. “A-F rating systems such as this fail to account for varying socioeconomic conditions that influence performance. This first report to the Legislature is not necessarily the final product in this effort.” He continued, “Our teachers and students work hard and academics are our first priority. All AISD schools received “Met Standard” on state testing in 2016 and in fact, we received several distinctions, including English/Language Arts & Reading, Closing Performance Gaps, Social Studies, and Postsecondary Readiness. Unfortunately, with the data that the Commissioner has chosed to use in this new report, our campuses did not score highly.” He also explained that these A-F ratings are not consistent with the traditional notion of grades that we received when we were in school. For many years, most people have considered a score of 90 or above to be an A. But in this rating system, that is not the case. For example, in one domain, it takes a score of 99 to make an A, and 91 is considered to be a D. Upon examining the cut scores, it is apparent that it would be almost impossible to make the highest grade in this domain, explained Harrist. In this domain, student attendance is rated and Atlanta Middle School’s score of 95.6 resulted in a rating of C, even though attendance at AMS is historically very high according to traditional measures. Having only a spread of 8 points between an A and D on this domain makes it very difficult to score highly. Other domains also have similar results.
“We take this report very seriously and we will use what we learn from it to improve education, where needed, Harrist said. Because approximately 55% of the rating comes from the results of STAAR testing, most of the report is based how well the students performed on just one day of the year on one test. “Our schools strive to provide a well-rounded education for all of our students, all of the time.” He continued, “This system leaves the public with an invalid, disconnected reflection of school quality. We have great schools in Atlanta. These reports do not reflect all of the wonderful things going on in our schools, from fine arts to athletics and UIL academic competitions, to career and technology, science, and much, much more. Our dedicated teachers and support staff work hard all year to teach all of our children. Unfortunately, we are judged on one day’s performance when the entire year is so meaningful in the lives of all our students.”