Administrators at Lubbock-Cooper Independent School District and members of the public education advocacy group Raise Your Hand Texas have called on legislators for more nuanced accountability from the state when it comes to evaluating students.
Currently, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) grades Texas public schools on an A through F scale. However, for elementary and middle school campuses, the only element they are graded on is their students’ STAAR Test scores.
“For a long time, really a generation now, we have measured kids based on one test one day of the year. And then we’ve taken how a kid or groups of kids did on that test that one day and labeled an entire class or a teacher’s class or a school or a campus based on that one indicator,” LCISD Superintendent Keith Bryant said. “Our kids are much more than one test one day a year. It’s time that our legislators recognize that.”
Bryant spoke at a news conference at Lubbock-Cooper High School’s Career and Technical Education Center, where students can take classes outside of traditional academia; developing talents such as woodworking and culinary arts, as well as “adulting” life skills, like taxes and insurance.
“We have 120 classes that are offered in the career and technical education realm,” Bryant said. “From welding, to building trades, to cosmetology to Firefighter Academy; we have a real estate class, you can finish that class and sit for the real estate exam and become a realtor, all these different things give kids opportunities for careers.”
These new skills and the performance of students learning in specialized facilities are not part of what’s measured in the state’s assessment of public schools. Bryant said these extracurricular and technical education programs already note the success rate of students for localized data, but he’s hoping the state would look at doing something similar.
“Every extracurricular program, every CTE program that has a certification exam, can be used,” Bryant said. “I think those metrics are out there, they would just have to be compiled. And that’s why we’re advocating for a pause in the current system, and let’s take a wide-ranging look at what we could build it to be.”
Bryant also noted the current accountability system doesn’t just impact schools and students.
“Teachers are frustrated, we’re facing a teacher shortage, and they feel a lot of pressure. And we don’t want teachers teaching to the test, we want them teaching the skills, and let the test take care of itself,” Bryant said. “But when a campus is slapped with a grade based on how kids do on that test that day, they want their kids to do well. And they don’t want to be seen as the teacher whose kids didn’t do well. So they put a lot of pressure on themselves.”
Macy Satterwhite, the assistant superintendent of Lubbock Cooper ISD, has been a member of the Measure What Matters Council for Raise Your Hand Texas. The group has been speaking to citizens across the state for over a year now, hearing ideas for improving testing and accountability in Texas’ public education. She said there’s more to these students than a test score.
“If your doctor just took one measurement, they’re missing everything about the entire system,” Satterwhite said. “That’s exactly what it’s like whenever we take one measurement, and we’ve cast a judgment on a child, a school or a teacher, based on that one measure.”
According to Satterwhite and the report from Raise Your Hand Texas, 68% of the more than 15,000 Texans interviewed said they believe that public schools should be graded on something other than the STAAR test, and 83% of Texans believe the TEA should not base the A through F grading system entirely on STAAR tests.
“School districts across the state of Texas send in a lot of data all year long to TEA that they have at their fingertips, everything from the health and wellness of our students through fitness to our pre-K enrollment programs, to students enrolled in fine arts,” Satterwhite said. “None of that data, though, is ever used for accountability.”
Amy Punchard is the president of the Lubbock-Cooper Education Foundation and the mother of two students at Lubbock-Cooper Middle School.
Punchard said her daughter is exceptionally gifted, but struggles with test anxiety. Her son was diagnosed with acute ADHD and dyslexia when he was in the third grade. She said much like one baseball game doesn’t define his whole season, one STAAR test grade isn’t a proper reflection of their academic performances for the entire school year.
“We need an accountability system that more accurately reflects the richness and complexity of the work happening on our campuses every day,” Punchard said. “In today’s world, our students need skills such as working collaboratively, problem solving, and resourcefulness. This test does not take into account what actually counts.”
Satterwhite said she believes this is an opportunity to study what other states are doing for accountability. Raise Your Hand Texas has offered some recommendations, such as expanding the scope of the state’s accountability ratings system to include factors beyond STAAR test scores for all grade levels, and calling on the TEA to report on alternative accountability systems, locally and across the state.
“What we’re asking legislators to do is to push pause on this current accountability reset,” Satterwhite said, “to study what are some other options that we have available, and then make the right decision for the students of Texas.”
Public education advocates have called on legislators for more nuanced accountability from the state when it comes to evaluating students.