TEA Releases New A-F Accountability System Report Cards

McKinney, Texas -  Today, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) released the results of its much-talked about, new “A-F” school accountability system. This inaugural installment serves as a benchmark, or “what if,” reflecting the grades schools would receive based on 2015–2016 student performance data.

McKinney, Texas -  Today, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) released the results of its much-talked about, new “A-F” school accountability system. This inaugural installment serves as a benchmark, or “what if,” reflecting the grades schools would receive based on 2015–2016 student performance data.

However, A-F labels will not be formally applied to campuses until the 2017–2018 school year.

(Click here to view the full TEA report.)

The A-F system came into existence with the passage of HB 2804 by the 84th Texas Legislature. Where the previous iteration of state-level accountability served as a pass/fail system with schools and districts receiving “Improvement Required” or “Met Standard” ratings with the possibility of earning distinctions in designated areas, the new law calls for a framework that assigns A-F grades to campuses and districts based on five areas of performance or “domains.”

The methods used by the state to calculate domain scores can be dizzyingly complex to the uninitiated, but at the most straightforward level:

Domain I measures student achievement based on student STAAR performance at three standards: Level II, Final Level II, and Level III.

Domain II reflects student progress year-to-year by examining each child’s scaled STAAR scores in reading and mathematics and comparing them to the previous year.

Domain III measures how effectively schools are closing performance gaps based on STAAR performance for economically disadvantaged students compared to state-predicted STAAR performance for those same students. Students achieving within the predicted range would receive a grade of “C.” Those performing above the predicted range would receive a grade of “B” or “A” depending on how much they exceeded state expectations for performance.

The first three domains, factored together, account for 55 percent of a school’s A-F grade.  

Domain IV, which counts as 35 percent of a school’s grade, indicates postsecondary readiness and relies on the following indicators rather than STAAR testing: attendance rates in elementary schools; attendance rates and dropout rates in middle schools; and graduation rates, diploma-type rates and college and career-ready graduation rates for high schools.  

Finally, Domain V is based on campus self-reporting and reflects student and community engagement. This performance area accounts for 10 percent of a school’s grade but is not included in this year’s benchmark implementation of the new system.

“It is important to note that the A-F system is a work in progress and subject to change based on a continued examination of the methodology being proposed and its validity in measuring student outcomes and campus effectiveness,” said McKinney ISD Chief Program Evaluation Officer Geoff Sanderson.
 
School boards and superintendents across the state have voiced concerns about the new system, often citing its inability to reflect a comprehensive and accurate view of a school’s effectiveness using such limited measures.

For example, the current grade reflecting postsecondary readiness at the elementary level is based solely on what is being referred to as the chronic absenteeism rate. With respect to closing performance gaps, the calculation does not compare peer group performance but rather the performance of students who come from poverty compared to a prediction of performance based on their economic status.

In a Dallas Morning News story released on Friday—“Even high-performing schools get D’s and F’s in Texas’ new grading system”—the writers explore those types of concerns. They point out that Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath has cautioned that the new system is a work in progress and highlight his contention that “grades will give families a better understanding of how their schools are doing…” (Click here to read the DMN article.)  

“I strongly disagree with the suggestion that a single letter grade can represent all that is occurring in McKinney ISD campuses and throughout the district,” said MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel. “The reduction of our schools to a single grade in each of four domains disregards the unique qualities and gifts of nearly 25,000 students and the talented staff that support them each and every day.”

Others have argued that the state’s attempt to create a system that is easy for parents to understand—using familiar letter grades—has actually resulted in a system that is complex and difficult to explain. “Prediction models utilizing algebraic formulas carried to the fifth decimal place do not strike me as commonly understood methods for communicating student achievement,” said Sanderson. “A letter grade of a B without proper context simply means it’s the second letter of the alphabet.”

As far as MISD is concerned, the “what if” ratings appear to conflict with official ratings from the past four years that indicate campuses have met the state accountability standards in every index for each of those years. Under the proposed new system, MISD received a ‘B’ for Student Achievement (Domain I), an ‘A’ for Student Progress (Domain II), a ‘C’ for Closing Performance Gaps (Domain III), and a ‘C’ for Postsecondary Readiness (Domain IV).   

Ultimately, though, Sanderson said that this information should not be considered a prediction or forecast of how campuses will ultimately perform. “This is an illustration of how the new rules will be applied so we can begin to better understand the complexities of the new accountability system,” he said.

For additional information on McKinney ISD, contact Shane Mauldin, MISD Communications Coordinator, at 469-302-4007 or smauldin@mckinneyisd.net.