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A Letter from Dr. Bays on A-F Ratings

Dear Floresville ISD Parents and Community,

As we work together to provide a quality education to FISD students, I felt it was important for you to know tomorrow, the Texas Education Agency, based on 2017 legislation, will award every school district in Texas a grade of A, B, C, D, or F based primarily on students’ performance on the state’s STAAR test.  Campuses will still be rated this year using a previous accountability system, but will also begin receiving letter grades in August 2019.  The primary arguments supporting the use of A-F ratings are that it simplifies the explanation of school and district quality while at the same time helps improve student performance.  I want to bring to your attention some concerns regarding this method of rating schools and the arguments used to support it.

First, the notion that A-F ratings provide simplicity in understanding school and district quality is misguided.  The rules behind A-F appear simple on the surface but with just a little analysis yield neither simplicity nor transparency.  In fact, it takes over 100 pages in the state’s Accountability Manual to explain the new system and how letter grades will be calculated. 

The reduction of a school or district to a single grade misrepresents a large proportion of what happens in schools.  It has the predictable effect of telling a school with a good grade that all is well and telling a school with a bad grade that all must change, even though neither can ever be accurate.  A-F ratings will create confusion among educators and fail to offer the public useful or accurate information about their schools.  The methodology is anything but simple. 

With regard to student performance, no rigorous research exists that shows that any rating system, by itself, improves performance.  In fact, the significant growth in student performance touted in Florida, the first state to implement an A-F system, can be credited to adjustments in state policy and rules to make the results better match public expectations.    

A letter grade will convey no information about where or how a school needs to improve.  As in any organization that has hundreds, if not thousands, of clients and stakeholders, there is always room for improvement.  In Floresville, we embrace this idea and constantly talk about how we can get better.  Continuous improvement is our mantra.

The A-F accountability system, just like the one we have now, will continue to be based primarily on once per year state testing.  Statewide surveys and the Floresville ISD parents and teachers I speak with generally believe we should give standardized, state-developed testing less influence in schools.  This rating system will not support that goal.

Furthermore, the letter grades will very likely align with a community’s relative level of wealth.  As we have seen in other states, grades of ‘D’ or ‘F’ are highly correlated with schools that serve large numbers of economically disadvantaged students.  In this way, the A-F system will create a false impression about an entire neighborhood of children and shame students and the school community.  We should not have a state accountability system that punishes schools and school children for the economic situation that exists in families. 

FISD is committed to being accountable to our parents and community, but we don’t support a system of school ratings that is meaningless to you, as well as to our Board and staff who are working toward continuous improvement.  We will review and reflect on how these ratings, along with existing state and local data, can impact the hard but rewarding work we do every day.  Not only are we preparing our students for a prosperous life, we are educating the leaders of tomorrow.  After all, a strong, quality public education is critical to our democracy. 

We are hopeful that the Legislature will see this rating system for the bad policy that it is and make a significant change.  Please make your voice heard on this issue by contacting your state legislators. 

The Honorable John Kuempel
District 44
Room E2.422, Capitol Extension
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, Texas 78768
john.kuempel@house.state.tx.us

The Honorable Judith Zaffirini
P.O. Box 12068
Capitol Station
Austin, Texas 78711
judith.zaffirini@senate.state.tx.us

Thank you for your support of Floresville students, teachers and staff.

Sincerely,
Sherri Bays
FISD Superintendent