Bill that scales back how the state grades schools becomes law

Gov. Greg Abbott has signed into a law a bill that scales back the way the state will grade school districts and campuses.

House Bill 22, which addresses the A-F accountability system, reduces the number of categories from five to three under which school districts and campuses are evaluated. It also postpones implementing the system for schools by a year until 2019, but school districts will still be evaluated under the A-F system by next year as was originally planned.

Schools and districts will be given an A-F in categories that will measure how well students perform on state standardized tests; how well students improve compared to similar school districts and campuses; and how well school districts and schools close the academic gap between different student populations, based on race, income, learning disability and whether the student has moved from school to school.

Under the bill, school districts and schools would also receive an overall grade.

READ: Austin district calls on lawmakers to repeal A-F school rating system

Critics say that the A-F system, which was approved by the Legislature in 2015, is vague and unfairly penalizes school districts with a lot of low-income students.

Many of them were also concerned that the A-F system relied too much on state standardized tests. The bill would put less emphasis on test scores for high schools and allow some schools to develop a part of the accountability system they’d be graded under.

Education groups who have had concerns with A-F have said they support the provision in HB 22 that postpones implementation of the system for schools and makes distinctions between a D and F grade but have said the the bill could have done more.

“While we would have preferred that the legislature delay implementation of A through F ratings until the system could be more fully addressed, TASB believes this is a positive first step in improving school accountability and hopes the commissioner is successful in gathering and incorporating stakeholder input from educators, trustees and administrators across the state,” said Kristin McGuire, policy consultant with the Texas Association of School Boards. “TASB is encouraged by the inclusion of additional indicators and measures of student and school success that continues the legislature’s move away from one-size-fits-all standardized testing and toward recognizing the whole child.”

Proponents say that the current A-F system is comprehensive and allows the public to better understand how their schools perform. Under the previous system, still in place, school districts and campuses each year get a grade of either ‘meets state requirements’ or not.

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