A-F Accountability Ratings Don’t Make the Grade!
A message from Kristin K. Tassin, Parent, Attorney and Fort Bend ISD Board President
During the 83rd Legislative session in 2013, parents, teachers and students made it clear to state legislators that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) needed to reduce the number of high-stakes tests that were being given to high school students. The STAAR assessments went too far and overburdened students and teachers in public schools. Our community spoke out and state legislators listened by reducing the number of STAAR End-of-Course tests for seniors from 15 to five.
It's time for parents, teachers and community members to speak up again. As we begin 2017, a legislative change from the 84th Texas Legislature in 2015 is set to go into effect, with the potential to negatively impact our students, their schools, and our community.
Starting with the 2017-18 school year, the TEA will label each public school district and campus with a rating in the form of an A-F letter grade to comply with House Bill 2804. Although the state has not yet released exactly how the letter grades will be calculated, approximately 55 percent of our campus and District overall grades will be based on high-stakes, standardized tests – the same tests our communities fought to reduce in 2013.
Coming in January 2017...
The state is set to release the set of indicators that will be used to measure and evaluate school districts and campuses by December 16, 2016. School districts across the state will receive provisional A-F grades in the new system in January 2017. These grades will be given to schools, as if the system were already in place. The official new accountability system will be introduced during summer of 2018.
These changes are an attempt at simplifying accountability – but to be clear: the work of Fort Bend ISD’s 5,000 educators is complex, as they are charged with meeting each student’s individual needs. A single letter grade is not a good indicator of how well our schools, teachers and especially our students are performing.
Looking Beyond the Label
All of our children – and our campuses – have unique needs, and our children need an accountability system that helps the District improve instruction. We believe in continuous improvement in everything we do, and we are committed to improving teaching and learning each year. However, A-F ratings systems create a false impression about an entire neighborhood of children and could potentially negatively impact students, undermining the work they put in each day and the growth they accomplish throughout the academic year.
A-F rating systems have not worked in 16 other states, and they fail to account for varying socioeconomic conditions that influence performance. Our board does not believe A-F ratings adequately reflect the work our educators are doing to meet the needs of all students, or how students are responding to instruction.
A-F ratings systems can also negatively impact neighborhoods and property values, affecting residents whether or not they have children in schools.
Our students deserve more than an A-F rating system and would be better served by an accountability system that looks beyond high-stakes, multiple-choice tests to meaningful assessments that have value for students, parents and teachers, as well as measures what each community deems important in promoting college and career readiness.
I ask you to join me in advocating for our students and letting your state legislators know what you think about TEA's new A-F Rating System.
Our students deserve better. Our students are more than a letter grade.
Kristin Tassin serves as President of the Fort Bend ISD Board of Trustees. She is a graduate of Louisiana State University, where she obtained her Bachelor of Science Degree in Quantitative Business Analysis (Computer Science option). She also earned her Juris Doctor from Louisiana State University Law School. She is managing partner of a law firm practicing intellectual property and special education law, and she is co-founder and director of a charitable organization that supports children with disabilities and their families. Mrs. Tassin was founding PTO President at a Title 1 school and is currently chair of a local legislative District Advisory Team that makes recommendations on education policy.