Texas’ A – F Report Cards Explained

Aug 16, 2018 by

By Donna Garner

UPDATE AT 8.16.18, 12:21 P. M. —  The Texas Education Agency has also created and launched an excellent website that thoroughly explains the A – F Accountability System with easy-to-understand videos.

Some of the best videos are entitled, “I’m a school board member.  How can A-F ratings help me improve schools in my district?” and “If I’m a parent, how should I use the A – F Ratings?”

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO GO TO THIS TEA LINK TO LEARN MORE:

Yesterday, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath and the Texas Education Agency issued the new “A – F Report Cards” for schools in Texas:  1,200 school districts and district charters, 8,700 campuses statewide, and over 5.4 million students. I am very thankful for Texas Education Commissioner Morath and his emphasis on quantitative (hard data) that the public can now easily comprehend.

Along with the A – F Report Cards, the TEA launched its user-friendly website that the public can utilize with ease: https://tinyurl.com/yde2e45n

All a person has to do is to type in the name of the school district (e.g., Midway – McLennan County – district), and he/she can see letter grades for the various areas of evaluation.  Along with the letter grades are “Tell Me More” dropdown boxes that explain in easy-to-understand wording exactly how the letter grades were calculated.  

To calculate the grades, the TEA used the higher of the two scores (Student Achievement or School Progress) for 70% of the grade plus 30% for Closing the Gap. This system makes it fair for all school districts – rich or poor, small or large, rural or urban.

The good news for Texans is that most of the data upon which the A – F grades are figured is quantitative (i.e.,“hard data”) which comes from ACADEMIC performance on Texas’ STAAR/End-of-Course tests. The STAAR/EOC’s are based upon the curriculum standards adopted by the elected members of the Texas State Board of Education (i.e., TEKS).

Education Commissioner Morath has pledged publicly to do his best to guide the elected members of the Texas State Board of Education to adopt TEKS (Texas’ curriculum standards) that are Type #1 (i.e., traditional, academic, knowledge-based, explicit, grow in depth and complexity from one grade level to the next, and can be tested largely with objective questions that have right-or-wrong answers).

Comm. Morath has also publicly pledged to review the STAAR/EOC questions periodically to make sure they are based upon the Type #1 TEKS.

Except for a few process standards (Type #2) that were placed nefariously into the 2012 Math TEKS (and thus, into the Math STAAR/EOC tests), the other subject areas of ELAR, Science, and Social Studies are Type #1; and the STAAR/EOC’s are also Type #1.

In contract, Common Core curriculum standards are Type #2 which means they are highly subjective – emphasize personal opinions, beliefs, and emotions (i.e., the social justice agenda). Common Core assessments (Type #2) are also very subjective because the “correct answers” are based upon the value system of the person (or the technology) doing the scoring.

Knowing that the new A – F Report Cards would be largely based upon ACADEMIC proficiency of students, Comm. Morath has changed the emphasis of teacher training FROM the latest pedagogical education “fads” TO deep and rigorous subject content knowledge in the field.  English teachers are now being trained to know how best to teach phonemic awareness/decoding skills (phonics), grammar, spelling, vocabulary, literature, composition, cursive writing, and research writing RATHER than wasting their time learning about such fads as constructivism, right-brain/left brain, restructuring schools movement, emotional learning, schools-within-schools, self-esteem movement, outcome-based education, etc.  

I as a teacher or as a parent would much rather know what the explicit academic goals for each school year are rather than having to second-guess what they are.  A GPS (i. e., Type #1 curriculum standards – TEKS) is a much better tool to use to reach a destination than to use a guess-as-you-go device (i.e., Type #2 TEKS). 

Type #1 tests (with largely right-or-wrong answers) based upon Type #1 standards take the guesswork out. If teachers will teach the Type #1 TEKS with fidelity and students will do their part by learning the Type #1 curriculum elements to mastery, then students should feel more confident taking the Type #1 STAAR/EOC tests. 

This new A – F Report Card system is a much better plan than basing a school’s success on subjectively gathered data by school administrators whose main motivation is to make themselves look good and increase their salaries.

The good news is that now parents and the public will be able to evaluate how well their schools are doing. The new A – F system makes sense to the common person, and the newly released TEA website is user friendly. This is a great combination and moves Texas schools not only into more accountability to objectively based Type #1 standards but also into greater transparency for the public.  

TO LEARN MUCH MORE ABOUT THE A – F REPORT CARD ACCOUNTABILITY SYSTEM, PLEASE GO TO: https://tea.texas.gov/Home/

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