While proponents of the A – F ratings believe the system simplifies the explanation of district and school quality and will help improve student performance, serious concerns about the system exist, some of which are highlighted below, and warrant consideration and conversation by educators, parents and our school community.
A – F systems provide no sense of what schools must do to improve.
The proposed A – F system relies on pages of complicated rules and calculations. As a result, this makes it difficult for a district or school to engage in conversations for continuous improvement. While the letter grade is simple, what it stands for is not.
A – F rating systems will likely align with a community’s relative level of wealth.
The primary purpose of evaluation is improvement, not punishment. As seen in other states, a “D” or “F” are highly correlated with schools that serve large numbers of economically disadvantaged students, creating a false impression about an entire neighborhood of children. We should not have an accountability system that punishes schools and children because of the economic situation that exists in families. While the letter grade is simple, what it stands for is not.
A – F rating systems have not worked in other states.
Virginia repealed its A – F school rating system and Oklahoma researchers recently conducted a study on the system and found scores declined or stagnated. While Florida’s A – F system speaks of significant growth in student performance, in actuality adjustments were made to state policy and rules to match public expectations. Parents and educators want a system that works, one that is transparent, is easily understood, and provides a way to identify areas of support needed for schools as well as identify areas of effective best practices. A – F systems do not meet the mark. While the letter grade is simple, what it stands for is not.
At Fort Sam Houston ISD, we exist to serve the military child and have a responsibility to prepare our students for post-secondary success as they go to college, join the military or find meaningful employment with an equally good future in a world that is more competitive, not less. Members of our Board of Trustees, teachers, administrators and staff work each day to support the design of engaging, challenging, and meaningful work for our students while preparing them to be leaders in their community. For a small school district, we offer a wide range of opportunities for our students and want to be accountable to our parents.
As a district, we support good systems of accountability that include multiple measures and metrics that make sense to parents and our staff. However, we don’t support the proposed A - F system of school ratings in its current form as it is meaningless both to parents and our staff who are working toward continuous improvement.
We encourage you to make your voice heard on this issue by reviewing the A – F information that is available on the Texas Education Agency website, engaging in conversation with your campus administrators, and contacting your state legislator. We invite you to attend a Town Hall meeting to be held on Thursday, January 12, 2017, at 5:30 p.m. in the Robert G. Cole Middle and High School Mall, to learn more about the proposed A – F accountability system. Light refreshments will be served.
Gail E. Siller, Ph.D.