Texas Commissioner of Education Michael L. Williams said this week that he plans to order the state to rate schools A-F starting in 2014, removing the long-standing four-tiered system of “academically unacceptable” through “exemplary.”
The A, B, C, D, and F grading system is used in other states, like Florida, Indiana and Oklahoma, among others, and is easier to understand, Williams said.
Williams said he plans to make the change without waiting for bills proposing to do the same to make their way through the Legislature. According to The Associated Press, when asked if he had the authority to make the sweeping change without approval, Williams said, “I believe I do.”
Cleburne ISD Superintendent Tim Miller said that a balanced approach to rating a school or district is something that educators and parents have been requesting of the commissioner and our state elected officials for some time.
He said that a new accountability system should rate schools and districts fairly as well as help the public understand the degree to which schools and districts can be reasonably compared with each other.
“When you have a pass-fail kind of system you can be academically unacceptable and be just barely below the line,” Williams said. “But when you have a system that has five differentiating grades you can give much clearer, I think, information to parents to taxpayers, even kids about where their school stands.”
Joshua ISD Superintendent Fran Marek said she thinks the system will be easier for everyone to understand, but the new rating scale won’t change the way JISD teaches its students.
“I will tell you honestly, this is how I feel: We’re going to have an accountability system and we always have, but it’s not going to change how we educate kids here in Joshua because we are always striving to give them the best public education. We’re always striving to be highly acclaimed.”
She said she hopes education officials keep the ratings simple and straightforward. Under the current ratings system, for example, a school can be rated academically unacceptable for a number of reasons, including a single subpopulation’s poor test scores, despite higher scores from other students.
“The new school accountability system should not rate a school or district solely on the lowest area of performance,” Miller said. “For example, Cleburne High School was rated academically unacceptable two years ago under the previous rating system even though 48 percent of the performance areas were in the exemplary range and 44 percent of the performance areas were in the recognized or acceptable range.”
This report contains information from The Associated Press.