In changing A-F, lawmakers look at STAAR test and overall grade

Students at Hays CISD lerning with their iPads. (KXAN Photo/Lauren Lanmon)
Students at Hays CISD lerning with their iPads. (KXAN Photo/Lauren Lanmon)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Next school year, Texas public schools will receive a grade from the Texas Education Agency, from A through F. As school districts figure out how to navigate the new system, lawmakers are already looking at making major changes to the system.

Earlier this year, when the agency released preliminary grades, school district officials erupted in criticism for basing the majority of the grades on the controversial STAAR test. Parents lobbied their lawmakers during the time between the two legislative sessions to advocate for making the grading criteria more agile, flexible and grounded in the different facets of Texas public schools.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, along with other lawmakers, say the A through F system is here to stay, but they’re not against tweaking the measure.

Tuesday, the House Committee on Public Education held public testimony on several bills that would change the system. House Bill 22, authored by the committee chairman Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, would eliminate the overall grade for the school but keep the different grades for each domain. The bill ensures a school would not be graded by more than 50 percent of their STAAR test scores.

‘What we have in place, is not working,” said Rep. Huberty.

Courtney Boswell from Texas Aspires says that’s going back on why they passed A through F in the first place.

“When you’re in school it’s like a GPA right. You get a bunch of individual grades but you still get the one overall grade and that’s what you use to apply to college or get a job. It’s the same for schools,” said Boswell.

Fifty-five percent of the current metric for measuring student achievement is based on the STAAR test.

State Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, says we need to measure on other, more flexible factors.

“Parents want less reliance on the STAAR test and they want more rigor in their classroom, not teaching to a test,” said Rep. Hinojosa. She filed a bill allowing schools to be graded on unique programs, like a duel credit program called ,UT OnRamp, currently in AISD.

“This is just one more consideration that the state can take into account,” Hinojosa said.

Supporters of the current law say they’ll closely watch the process to try and stop lawmakers from adding too many measurements — in their eyes watering it down.

“You’re adding in fluff and you’re making the accountability system somewhat meaningless,” said Boswell.

And in order to take their time getting it right. The new bill delays the start of A through F until 2019.

House Bill 22 also looks to add additional achievement indicators to the “student achievement” domain, such as completion rates for fine arts, physical education and second language courses. It wants “extra curricular participation rates” and high school graduation rates to be included as well.

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