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New rating system proves difficult to decipher

By Sara Sneath
Jan. 6, 2017 at 10:33 p.m.
Updated Jan. 7, 2017 at 4 a.m.

The Calhoun County school district superintendent has been trying to explain to his campuses how the new A-F rating system works.

The state released preliminary ratings Friday, which provide a glimpse of what schools would have earned if the new system were in place.

But trying to understand and explain the new system hasn't been easy, said James Cowley, the district's superintendent.

In some categories, all State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness scores were used.

In others, only English language arts and math assessment scores were used.

And, in the category of post-secondary readiness for elementary students, the only measure used was student attendance.

"As educators, we are in the business of instruction, growth, evaluation and improvement," Cowley said. "This new accountability system is proving to be more difficult to use in identifying areas of growth."

The state education agency has compared the A-F system to a student receiving individual grades in subjects, which are then combined for an overall GPA. But a look at the scores in Calhoun County proves that the scores are not that simple.

In the category of postsecondary readiness, Calhoun High School received a score of 92, which earned it a B. But Travis Middle School received a score of 93.4, which earned the school a D.

"I do think that the lack of clarity in the way the ratings are figured does, and will, cause more confusion to all of us who are trying to use and understand these scores," Cowley said.

School evaluations have the potential to provide districts with feedback in areas to improve and commend them in areas where they are succeeding.

The evaluations can also serve community members who want to know how their schools fare. But the new system does neither, Cowley said.

"This system takes the information already used in the accountability system and recycles it in a different way," he said.

"Applying a different formula to that data does not provide us with new information. We welcome accountability, and we would like to work with our local community to define target areas, utilize feedback and make the improvements and changes desired by our community."

To search for your campus or district scores go here.


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