Austin district to devise local system for grading schools

6:34 p.m Monday, Dec. 18, 2017 Texas News & Politics
Children pack the hallway of Lee Elementary School on the first day of school Aug. 21. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The Austin school district is one of 20 districts and charter systems statewide chosen to participate in a pilot program to develop a local system of grading schools.

The program was established under a new law, House Bill 22, that also scaled back the A-F accountability system, unpopular among school district officials. One of the criticisms of the state’s accountability system is that it’s heavily reliant on student performance on state standardized tests.

“It is a snapshot of one day and one test sliced many different ways within the accountability system, and those are valuable data points, but it doesn’t paint a complete picture of everything that happens to support a child and make a child college- and career- and life-ready when he graduates,” said Debra Ready, executive director of accountability and assessment for the Austin school district.

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

School districts that use the locally developed system will still be graded under the statewide A-F accountability system.

Under A-F, school districts and campuses will be given an overall letter grade and one each in three categories — how well students perform on state standardized tests, how well students improve compared with 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.

Districts will be rated under A-F starting next August, and campuses will be rated starting the following year.

Locally developed accountability systems allow school districts to highlight initiatives they’re implementing to bolster the academic performance of students, especially those who are learning English as a second language and are from low-income families. Programs that could be evaluated as part of local ratings include social-emotional learning, fine arts and community engagement.

School districts have had the chance to grade themselves for the past three years under a similar system called Community and Student Engagement. It ended under HB 22.

After the pilot program finishes, school districts across the state are expected to develop their own school grading system, starting in the 2018-19 school year.

The other school districts and charters participating in the pilot are: Alief, Bullard, Canadian, Clear Creek, Dallas, El Paso, Humble, Jonesboro, Lyford, Midland, Point Isabel, Premier High Schools, Richland Collegiate High School, San Saba, Sharyland, Snyder, Spring Branch, Sunnyvale and Waco.