Superintendent's column: Reliance on standardized testing highly debated
By BY ROBERT JAKLICH
Jan. 7, 2017 at 5:12 p.m.
Sept. 8, 2016, the Texas Education Agency released the Accountability Summary and Distinction Designation Reports for the 2016-2017 school year. In the fourth year of the current accountability system, schools and school districts received a rating of either "Met Standard" or "Improvement Required."
The current accountability system, which is in place until the 2017-2018 school year, measures schools and school districts with a four-index model.
• Index 1, Student Achievement, measures the percentage of all students passing the state assessment exams. It is a snapshot of performance across all subjects, on both general and alternative assessments, at the satisfactory performance standard. To meet the state standard in this index, a school district is required to achieve 60 points or more. As a school district, VISD achieved 66 points and, as such, "met standard."
• Index 2, Student Progress, measures the percentage of students who met progress and the percentage of students who exceeded progress. It is designed to separate measures of student progress from measures of student achievement and provide an opportunity for diverse campuses to show improvements they are experiencing independent of overall achievement levels. Growth is evaluated by subject and individual student groups. To meet the state standard in this index, a target of 22 points is required for a school district. As a school district, VISD achieved 39 points and, as such, "met standard."
• Index 3, Closing Performance Gaps, measures the performance of students in the economically disadvantaged student group as well as the two lowest-performing race/ethnicity groups from the 2014-15 school year. Performance measures are based on the number of test results that met the state standard and the number of test results that exceeded the state standard in each of the identified student groups. As a school district, VISD was measured by the performance of the economically disadvantaged, African-American and Hispanic student groups. For a school district to meet the state standard for this index, a target of 28 points must have been achieved. VISD earned 33 points and, as such, "met standard."
• Index 4, Post-Secondary Readiness, measures high school completion and STAAR performance at the final level II standard. The purpose of Index 4 is to emphasize the importance of students being prepared for success in college, the workforce, job training programs or the military. For high schools, this means achieving a high graduation rate and high performance on other postsecondary readiness measures. To meet the state standard in this index, a target of 57 points is needed. As a school district, the VISD achieved 68 points and, as such, "met standard."
This year's accountability ratings have substantiated that we have once again earned a Texas Education Agency rating of "met standard," and 22 of our 24 VISD campuses that fall under this accountability system are also rated "Met Standard." We have also experienced tremendous growth in the special recognition of Distinction Designations, and this year we are proud to state that we have 11 Distinction Designation campuses that earned a total of 22 Distinction Designations.
Beginning with the 2017-2018 school year, the Commissioner of Education will label every public school and school district in Texas with a rating in the form of an A-F letter grade to comply with House Bill 2804. This law requires schools and school districts to be issued grades based on the different areas of performance or "domains" (much like the indexes described above).
These ratings will be issued officially for the first time in August 2018, but the law requires a preliminary "work-in-progress" report that identifies "potential grades" by each "domain" to be issued to the Legislature by Jan. 1, 2017. Given the limitations of the assessment data available for comparison between the two accountability systems as well as the challenge of using the 2015-2016 data and trying to retrofit this old data into the future accountability instrument, this "apples-to-oranges" approach does not provide for a true or accurate account of overall student performance, and the "work in progress report" is extremely misleading to the public.
The information provided by TEA explains that the "work-in-progress" report is in fact just that - a work in progress. In a letter from the TEA to superintendents Dec. 16, it was explained that the rating cut points used in this report are not necessarily the same rating cut points that will be used for the 2017-2018 A-F ratings. The 2017-2018 A-F campus and district rating cut points have not yet been finalized. The development of the new A-F accountability system is still a work in progress until the spring 2018 when the rules are expected to be adopted.
It is important to note that because the new accountability A-F ratings will not be in place until 2018, this "work in progress" report is not the rating assigned to the VISD and will not be the rating assigned to us for this upcoming accountability year.
In VISD, we realize that we are not in the education business serving people; we are in the people business serving education. We also realize that preparing our students for college or the workforce is secondary to our responsibility to prepare them for success in life.
Currently across all education arenas, there is much discussion regarding the use of standardized testing as a reflection of student learning. The heavy reliance on standardized testing as a tool in the evaluation of student, teacher, school and school district success will continue to be greatly debated. And while that debate continues, VISD will continue our focus on "Every Child, Every Classroom, Every Day" as we prepare our students for a future of hope and endless possibilities.
Robert Jaklich is the superintendent for the Victoria Independent School District. Contact him at 361-788-9202 or through the VISD website, visd.com.