A-F Ratings

Posted by Jennifer Williams on 8/15/2018

The current school “A-F ratings” that were released on Wednesday by the Texas Education Agency assigned the Tom Bean ISD an “F.”  We feel that our rating was not as high as it perhaps should have been due to a bookkeeping/reporting error regarding our Dual Credit students at the High School.  Although we have not confirmed the mathematics in computing what would have been the appropriate score, we feel that it should have been a “C.”  This is based on discussions we have had with the Region 10 Service Center.  I repeat that we have definitely found a bookkeeping error that clearly had an effect on our rating but the computation of the rating is a good faith estimate at this point. 

Individual campuses are not rated this year but will receive ratings next year. 

                We acknowledge that we have work to do in relation to our instruction across the district, we always will, but planned instructional changes have been in the works for months, in part based on our test results released in May and June.  But a rating system timed to be released on the first day of school for many public schools is a little late to offer us much assistance this school year.  Reviewing pages and pages of data and thousands of data points that have been reduced to one letter grade is not something that lends itself to be completed quickly.  We would rather our teachers spend their time looking at individual student and classroom level assessments to find the holes in our curriculum.

The release of school “ratings” in August 2017 by the Texas Education Agency (TEA), rated Tom Bean ISD “Met Standard” (the highest possible rating).  We also received some distinctions, which is recognition for doing well in some areas.  We have reported these ratings to our teachers and publicly reported these to our community at our December 2017 school board meeting.  These ratings, along with ratings from the previous three years, have also been posted on our website.  We are proud of the successes that we have had and the improvements we have made but, we have not made a big deal of these ratings because we feel that these do not accurately represent all of the educational philosophies or priorities of Tom Bean ISD and that “standardized” state accountability does not meet our parents and community expectations.

                Testing has a purpose and a place and we will continue to support it, but not at the expense of the true education that will have a greater impact upon students’ hopes and futures.  We have chosen to take a more holistic approach believing that cognitive skills matter, but social and emotional skills, such as perseverance, self-control and resilience are just as important.  All of these skills need to be fostered for our students to prosper so we strive to provide children a balanced set of skills for achieving positive life outcomes.

                While the “intent” of the “A-F” system is reportedly so that everyone can easily understand what is a “good” or “bad” school, we believe otherwise.  A few comments on the “A-F” system:

  • Regardless of if our district had received an “A,” TEA’s stamp of approval, the “C” which we feel like we deserved, or the “F” we received, we believe this system is completely off track and will be a detriment to many schools and communities across Texas.  There are many in the education community across the state who believe that this system is being created to discredit public schools in a political effort to push private school “vouchers” and privatized charter schools at the next legislative session. 
  • First, this “A-F system” is strongly dependent upon state mandated standardized test scores.  ANY system that is so strongly based on testing results does not represent the differences in communities in regards to demographics, socioeconomic conditions, local needs and expectations or philosophies of individual districts.  For example, this same system is used to rate schools in Texarkana, Beaumont, Brownsville, El Paso, Dalhart and Tom Bean.  These communities are hundreds of miles apart in different regions of the state and each have different needs.  It is our belief that it is statistically impossible to design a mathematical system that can rate schools fairly across such a vast state.
  • Second, this system has and is being used in other states with no proof that this system helps districts, schools, students or parents.  In fact, some states have now gone away from this system as they have seen the detrimental effects upon students, schools, communities and no positive results.
  • Third, this new rating system does not accurately represent what goes on at a local school or district where philosophies, actions and considerations can be taken into account to benefit local students and community needs. 

                Some may say that we are against accountability; we are not.  We support some type of state accountability rating system, a portion of which is based on standardized testing. 

We believe accountability must be in place for ALL public schools and the funds that are shared with us from the taxpayer.  Our district is held accountable locally by students, parents and our community every day in regards to academic results, taxes and meeting the needs of the local community as well as by state standards of academic and financial accountability. 

It is a fact that LOCAL taxes now fund well over 50% of public education in the state of Texas as the legislature has allowed the state’s share of this cost to drop to 38% (the other 8% is federal money).  So, it could be argued that local accountability and opinions SHOULD carry greater weight since they have become the primary funding source for public education.

                We strive to have every student “college ready,” but we realize that everyone is unique and this cookie cutter rating system does not meet everyone’s needs, desires and goals at this point in their lives.  Thus, we strive to offer additional opportunities for our students to improve their employment prospects by fostering social and emotional skills, also known as non-cognitive skills, soft skills or character skills, such as communication skills, perseverance, responsibility and motivation, to name just a few.

We share these state ratings but we want to remind you that these ratings are only a small part of what happens at your local public school.  We believe that the statistical system that has been put in place is very misleading.  We invite you to go to the TEA website and peruse the 86 page manual that describes how a school receives an “A-F” rating.  Someone in Austin, who has never set foot in Tom Bean, Texas, is incapable of rating the overall picture of our school.

Our school is your school.  We welcome feedback from students, parents and community members on any suggestions for improving Tom Bean ISD. 

We sincerely hope that you will join with us in making your state legislators aware of your support for and the benefits of public education.  If you have any questions or wish to find out more about these issues, please do not hesitate to inquire with Kelly Lusk at 903-546-6076.