School districts around the state get letter grades for the first time next week, but many superintendents are wary of the process.
"This particular system is a convoluted mess," Malakoff Superintendent Randy Perry said. "It's still just based predominately on once-a-year standardized test scores."
The new system was created by the Texas Legislature in 2015, replacing marks of “met standard” or “needs improvement” with the A-F report card.
When the first preliminary grades were announced in January 2017, almost every district in Henderson County got at least one D or lower, on its district-wide score or at one of the individual schools.
In the first scores, wealthy districts disproportionately received As and Bs. Poorer districts disproportionately received Cs, Ds and Fs.
"There are about 12,000 different DATA points in the A-F accountability system," Perry said. "It's really difficult to get into the data and try to figure out exactly where our district is going to end up on that scale because of the sheer volume of the data involved."
The Texas Association of School Administrators released information about the change. The documents show that "no one can explain the grade, and no one knows what to do to raise the grade. “A” campuses and districts have just as difficult a time explaining why they were given an “A” as “D” campuses and districts have explaining why they were given a “D."
"I think there's some bias against the rural schools, particularly in the certification process of the college career and military readiness," Perry said. "There's no agricultural certification at all because they don't consider that something to go further with as a job."
LaPoynor Superintendent James Young said regardless of how his district fares on the Aug. 15 ratings, he's not pleased with the system.
"The STAAR was designed to rank-order students and not really assign judgments of quality," Young said. "The State Board of Education did a survey a couple of years ago, and an overwhelming number of Texans said they don't want a public school accountability system based primarily on standardized test scores."
Young said that because his school district is not over 300 square miles but rather 149 square miles, LaPoynor is hit with the "small school penalty," which costs the district $500,000 to $600,000 each year.
"If you said to me. 'We're going to give you an extra $600,000," maybe I could hire some teachers or have some more intervention classes." he said.
Schools in West Texas with a larger land area are getting twice as much funding per_student, Young said.
The Aug.15 ratings will be only district-wide. Next August, there will be A-F ratings for the districts and each individual campuses.
"All in all, I just kind of roll with the punches," Perry said. "We're going to do the best that we can. We know that our school district is very successful, and we're going to keep doing the things that we do to make the student successful."
Perry expects fine-tuning on the system after the ratings are released.
"I don't think it has worked in other states," Perry said. "I think Florida and Kansas had it, and it didn't really work there. But we're all taking the same test and we're all being graded that way. If you level the playing field, great."
Young said LaPoynor officials are trying to make sure the students show improvement and are learning each year.
"Sometimes, that translates to doing well on the state test and sometimes it doesn't," Young said.