Friday, January 6, 2017

A-F: Is It More about Accountability or Affluence

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) was required to develop a school accountability system that showed the performance of every district and campus using the letter grade system (A-F).  The purpose for the system was obvious, to give parents a transparent way to communicate a school's performance, and that is something that we must always strive for.  Parents deserve to know how well their school is doing at teaching their child.

The ratings for all Texas public schools have been released today, and there will be a lot of frustration from a lot of schools across the state.  The grades are not our rating now, but the district and campuses will be rated on this system in 2018.

Blue Ridge ISD met standard on every campus and for the district in 2016, and we are well on our way to grow to even higher levels this year.  The letter grades reflect what our rating would be in 2018 when the system becomes official.  The school's rating is shared below is only a scenario based on our performance from 2015-2016.

The number one issue that I am hearing from other districts, educators and board members is that the grading system makes no sense.  Furthermore, it is quite evident that poverty plays a huge role in the kind of grade that the school may receive.

In the slides below, you will see that the grade distribution for every domain mainly shows that the more affluent students are, the higher grade the district will likely receive.  In other words, schools with the least amount of poverty is more likely to receive an A or B.  Therefore, if your child attends a school district with high levels of poverty, then the district is more likely to receive a C, D or F.

Blue Ridge ISD has a poverty rate of 56%, and you will notice that our scores reflect what the majority of schools like us in Texas will receive.

My Facebook Live explanation of the A-F Accountability Model

How did they come up with the grades?

To best answer this question, I would like to encourage you to read this article by Mary Ann Whiteker, Superintendent of Hudson ISD.  It outlines the complex and downright unexplainable formulas that the state is using to rate schools, and her article does a great job translating how the rating formulas penalize schools even when they have students performing at high levels.

 The system is significantly flawed, and here is just 1 of several examples.  Hudson MS was recognized as 1 of the 7 BEST Title 1 Schools in the entire state of Texas.  This school was so revered that the state of Texas did extensive research on the school.

Hudson MS earned 2 B's, 1 C and 1 A.  If one of the very best schools in the state is receiving average or above average ratings, then how can this rating system make sense?  There are many examples of other high performing schools who are rated as average and even lower in this system.

Below are the grades assigned to Blue Ridge ISD.  What you will see is that 55% of the rating system is based on STAAR and NOTHING ELSE.  Essentially, our rating is based on one test on one day.  While the performance of our school is communicated as average, please know that Blue Ridge is NOT average.  Below are the scores for Blue Ridge and how they are derived.

Blue Ridge ISD's Grades

Basis for Assigning the Grade
BR Grade
STAAR Performance
  • 1/3 of the total - passing the STAAR,
  • 1/3 of the total - postsecondary readiness scores on the STAAR,
  • 1/3 of the total - advanced scores on the STAAR.
  • Higher poverty schools received lower grades
Student Growth based on STAAR in Reading and Math only.
  • 1 point for improving 1-10 points from last year
  • 2 points increasing by 10 or 20 points from last year
  • 0 points for dropping a couple of points from last year.
  • Writing, Science and Social Studies not included in score.
Closing the Gaps

  • This domain is the same as Domain 1 except 
  • The rating is based on performance compared to district with similar percentages of Economically Disadvantaged students.
  • The majority of schools in Texas received a D in this domain.

  • Elementary Schools evaluated 100% based on "Chronic Absenteeism (nothing that has to do with academics is considered).
  • Middle Schools evaluated on Chronic Absenteeism and Dropout Rate (nothing that has to do with academics is considered).
  • High Schools evaluated on Graduation Rate, Graduation Plan and College Ready Graduates.
  • The majority of schools in Texas received a C.

Can You tell a Story with Just 1 Letter?
If you want to read a story, 1 letter simply won't suffice.  You have to read words and even sentences in order to know what the story is all about.  Schools deserve an accountability system that actually tells the community the real story about student performance and continuous improvement.  My hope is that you will tell parents, educators and legislators (CLICK HERE for Contact Info) your school's story about student achievement and that a letter which basically communicates subpar performance is morally wrong.  Letter grades to define academic performance will do nothing more that hurt schools and more importantly the communities that support them.

See for more information.

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