A new bill in Texas that would require a letter grade of A through F be given to public schools in the state based on their performance recently won final passage through the state Legislature.
House Bill 2804 would also require the state to overhaul the accountability system used to create the letter grades. In addition, student assessments would play a smaller role in the measurement of school performance across Texas.
The letter grades would replace the current system of rating schools as "met standards" or "needs improvement."
Currently in Texas, school ratings are almost completely based on student performance on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, STAAR, exams. The new bill would see 55% of the ratings come from three sources, including scores on the STAAR exam, student progress on the exam, and the reduction of the performance gap which exists between poor or minority students and wealthy or white students.
Supporters of the bill argue that offers parents and other community members an easier way to understand how area schools are performing.
"This is an opportunity for some parents to have more information," said state Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, when a similar piece of legislation passed the Senate in late March. "Once people have those facts before them, a low rating school cannot hide behind a rating system that is not clear."
Taylor went on to say that giving schools a letter grade would increase parent awareness of failing schools.
However, not everyone agrees with the change. After it was first introduced, Democrats and Republicans alike stood in opposition. State Representative Sylvester Turner referred to the idea as a "horrendous mistake," writes Morgan Smith for The Texas Tribune. "That places more of a stigma on kids who are trying to rise above their circumstances," said Turner.
While student performance on state standardized exams would continue to play a role in how schools are measured, it will no longer be as significant. Under the new bill, 45% of a school's rating would be affected by additional information such as community engagement, AP course enrollment, attendance and dropout rates, writes Kiah Collier for The American-Statesman.
An additional bill, House Bill 1842, would give the state the ability to step in when a school has been labeled as failing for two consecutive years, and would require certain changes to be made at that point. The house approved the bill in a 125-18 vote.
The bill is now headed to the desk of Governor Greg Abbott for final approval.