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TEA ratings minimize students’ achievement, Northwest Harris County leaders say

August 21, 2018 GMT

School districts in northwest Harris County say the Texas Education Agency’s accountability ratings are not the only way to judge progress in their campuses.

The TEA’s new ratings, which were unveiled last week, provide letter grades to school districts from A to F.

The TEA took standardized test scores, student progress, graduate rates and academic performance in relation to poverty rates into account when determining a district’s score.

In northwest Harris County, the results for four school districts ranged were mixed.

Tomball ISD received an A. Klein ISD was rated a B.

Cypress-Fairbanks ISD and Spring ISD were not rated for 2017-2018 since they both received accountability waivers due to being impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

If CFISD had earned a overall letter grade, it would have scored a B.

CFISD superintendent Mark Henry said the ratings demonstrated only a portion of the district’s staff and students.

“Although we are pleased with the efforts of our staff and students during the 2017-2018 school year, we view the accountability rating as one small part of the education we provide students. A single letter grade minimizes the great accomplishments of our 117,000 students,” he said.

Spring ISD was also not given an overall letter grade, but would have earned a C.

Spring ISD superintendent Rodney Watson criticized the new ratings as being confusing.

“As educators, we’re used to giving grades and recognize that A-F letter grades are easily understood by most people. At the same time, we know that a letter grade based on a single day’s performance on a standardized test doesn’t fully measure the hard work of our teachers and academic growth of our students over a full year of instruction. The A-F letter grades also don’t adequately tell the story of the district’s year-over-year improvement,” he said in a statement.

One indicator of Spring ISD’s improvement was how all of the district’s 26 elementary schools had met the TEA’s standards since 2011, he said.

The district, which had 36,134 enrolled students during the 2017-2018 year, is also focusing on literacy, special education, performing and visual arts, and gifted and talented education.

Another area that the district is focusing on is training nearly 2,200 teachers through its professional development program.

Klein ISD’s B grade is not indicative of the school district, leaders say.

“We believe that our students cannot be defined by a single letter grade. Our definition of student success takes into account a broad range of measures that encompass the whole student, not just a student’s performance on one day, on one test,” said Klein ISD deputy superintendent Jenny McGown.

The district is currently dealing with its annual budget for the 2018-2019 school year, as it looks to cut $37 million.

The budget cuts come after a tax hike proposal failed in June and its final budget will be decided during a meeting on Monday, August 27.

Tomball ISD, which earned an A rating, did not comment on the ratings.

mayra.cruz@chron.com