Some Achieving Public Schools Get Fs Under New Letter Grade Rankings

Critics say the new accountability system doesn’t look at the complexity of education.

By Rhonda FanningJanuary 6, 2017 11:27 am

Public school educators across the state are feeling uneasy about the release of a new accountability system: report cards complete with letter grades. The idea is to give families a better understanding of how well their local schools are performing. But critics – including more than a 150 districts across Texas – complain these new report cards are flawed.

Holly Hacker and Eva-Marie Ayala covered the story for the Dallas Morning News. Ayala says although the grades don’t count this time (they’ll take effect next year), many schools aren’t happy with the grade they received.

“We knew this was going to give schools a lot of heartburn coming into it,” Ayala says. “For the past couple of weeks, many school districts around the state have been passing resolutions calling for a repeal of it. They’re really skeptical as to how you can drill down some complex issues that make up schools and have that reflected in one single letter grade.”

Many schools and districts were surprised by their grades. Each school was graded on four different aspects: how students do on the STAAR test, how well students are making progress on STAAR, how well the school is closing gaps between students who are struggling economically and their peers, and how well schools are preparing kids for life after high school.

“A lot of people were really worried that letter grades were going to stigmatize the schools that are already struggling because it takes so long for them to earn higher grades,” Ayala says. “But some surprises that we saw were high-performing districts that typically earn national recognition and recognition from the state didn’t do so well either. They got low grades, and in some cases, Fs.”

Educators say the methodology is flawed. Ayala says what these benchmarks look like from school district to school district aren’t uniform – they’re also different from school to school.

“Each face different challenges,” Ayala says. “When you get into the numbers and try to boil it down to everyone meeting the same standard or everyone having to go over certain hurdles like if they were in a track race, that’s really not going to apply when you’re looking at school because it’s so complex.”

See how your school ranked.

Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.