A or F: Mixed reviews for state’s new school grading system

Texas

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As Texas children go back to school, they’re getting a different picture of the quality of their education. For the first time, school districts are getting A through F letter grades from the state. 

Under the old rating system, school districts were basically rated on a pass-fail scale. Schools received ratings of “met standard” or “improvement required.” 

Michael Williams pushed for the changes when he served as Texas education commissioner.

He is now the chairman of Texas Aspires. “It’s something parents, business leaders, moms and dads and grandmas and grandpas understand,” Williams said in an interview on the State of Texas politics program. “It provides a sense of clarity and transparency that we may not have had in the system before.”

But, not everyone is happy about the new system. Education groups say the system relies too heavily on standardized test scores. Critics worry the grading system could hurt the students who need the most help.

“We don’t see A to F as anything other than a way to label and stigmatize schools,” said Louis Malfaro, president of Texas American Federation of Teachers.

Malfaro said that the system puts too much weight on standardized testing. “All those measures are the STAAR test measures,” Malfaro said, pointing to the three basic areas of the rating system. “A multiple choice test that tests a very narrow segment of the curriculum.”

“There’s no doubt that schools are doing wonderful things in other areas that are not being measured in this space,” Williams said.

He says the rankings serve a specific purpose. “We want to know, we ought to know are they getting it?” Williams said of the part of the curriculum covered by STAAR. “There are other things going on in schools that are great, and someone else can tell that story somewhere else.”

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