TEA Commissioner’s A-F Performance Rating Plan

(From the Dallas Morning News. Note: the new performance rating system, while a welcome change, still uses testing criteria as the only measure of the quality of a campus.)

A new school performance rating system that will spotlight how well schools are doing to close long-standing achievement gaps between white and minority students was announced Tuesday by state Education Commissioner Michael Williams. The new system, which will annually grade school districts and campuses, is based on four criteria: student achievement on STAAR exam, upward progress on the test, college readiness of students and progress in closing the white-minority achievement gap. Scheduled to go into effect this year, the new performance criteria will judge schools in more areas that the current system, which is focused primarily on overall and ethnic group passing rates on state achievement tests.

“I have heard the criticism of the previous accountability system, with its overemphasis on a school’s lowest performing areas and its blind spot to what a district or charter might be doing well,” Williams said Tuesday in announcing the new ratings plan. “The new system makes use of multiple indicators to provide parents and taxpayers a more detailed overview of the successes, as well as areas of necessary improvement, for each school district, charter school and campus.” The commissioner has pointed to the need for improving the achievement of black and Hispanic students, who now make up 65 percent of public school enrollment and who historically have trailed their white counterparts on state exams as well as college entrance and other tests.

Williams said the new standards will go into effect this summer, based on STAAR results from the spring. Release of the ratings, however, could be postponed one year under a Senate bill that calls for a delay because of changes in the school accountability system that are working their way through the Legislature. The measure is now before the House. If it is approved, it would mean a second straight year of no performance ratings for public schools, which were last graded in 2011. The ratings categories for this year under Williams’ plan would be “met standard,” “met alternative standard,” and “improvement required.” High-scoring schools will also be recognized for outstanding achievement on the STAAR. Then in 2014, the system will switch to letter grades – A through F – for districts and campuses.

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