Statement on A-F grading of school districts

CONTACT:  Rob D’Amico, 512-627-1343

Nothing is fair about this simplistic, test-driven system that doesn’t reflect how schools are progressing and serving their students and communities

Louis Malfaro, Texas AFT president, commented today on the Texas Education Agency release of A-F ratings for school districts:

The new A-F accountability system moves Texas in the wrong direction by reinforcing the test-driven distortion of the classroom experiences of millions of Texas students. Put simply, a comprehensive picture of all students’ abilities and performance at a school or district is not reducible to a one-letter grade label.

An extremely complex system of boiling down test scores into letter grades doesn’t reflect the reality of what’s going on in our schools. That single letter grade provides parents no information about how their kids are progressing in school and will only confuse parents more.

The simple answer for parents is that there is no reason for confidence that ratings based primarily on a snapshot of test scores will offer a trustworthy picture of school performance.

The commissioner calls this the fairest system of accountability ever.  Educators and parents disagree and reject the misuse of standardized test scores from tests – that were not designed for this purpose—as the primary means of assessing how well schools are educating our kids. There is nothing fair to students or parents about using a one-time multiple-choice test to labeling schools and districts.  This system will stigmatize and demoralize our most impoverished schools and embolden school privatizers to take community schools away from the communities they serve.

In 2015, Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), ending punitive federal mandates for schools based solely on standardized test scores. States now have the discretion to develop accountability systems designed to support deep teaching and learning and jettison the punitive and ineffective sanctions and required improvement strategies of the past that did not work. By implementing the A-F ranking system, Texas is moving backward regarding improvements to its accountability system.

The Texas Legislature has delayed implementation of this faulty system twice, and many legislators have expressed misgivings about increasing emphasis on a single measure of student learning.  More than half of all the 1,100 school districts in Texas have passed resolutions opposing A-F.  The Legislature should repeal the A-F system in the coming year before this misguided system has a chance to cause more damage to students and schools.

Texas American Federation of Teachers represents more than 65,000 teachers, paraprofessionals, support personnel, and higher-education employees across the state. Texas AFT is affiliated with the 1.6-million-member American Federation of Teachers.