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TEA rating frustrates Deer Park ISD

Written by Bobby Vasquez. Posted in Schools

Deer Park ISD croppedIN SCHOOLS
A Texas Education Agency rating released Friday has school districts across the state angered and confused. Several districts, including Deer Park ISD received an F rating in a preliminary report from the TEA. DPISD Superintendent Victor White explained the rating and his frustrations with the agency, saying the ratings system is a plane flying while TEA is still building it.

The first preliminary ratings of the state’s new A-F accountability system was released Friday by the Texas Education Agency. Although the official ratings will not be released until August of 2018, Deer Park ISD Superintendent Victor White said he was angry and frustrated that DPISD received an F for post-secondary readiness at Deer Park High School.

The A-F system was put in place after the 84th Texas Legislature. It assigns the familiar letter grades to districts and schools based on student achievement, student progress, closing performance gaps, post-secondary readiness and community/student engagement.

TEA distributed grades for the first four metrics, also known as domains. No grades were given for the fifth domain measuring community and student engagement in the preliminary release.

Deer Park ISD received a B in the other first three domains.

TEA’s ratings combine the Deer Park High School system – North Campus, South Campus and the Wolters Accelerated High School – into one school. DPHS was the only DPISD school to receive the F grade and because the TEA ratings system only takes the high school’s score into its A-F grading system, the entire district received the F grade.

State Education Commissioner Mike Morath said the public should not view the ratings as a predictor of district ratings.

“The ratings in this report are for informational purpose to meet a legislative requirement and represent work-in-progress models that are likely to change before A-F ratings become effective in August 2018,” he said. “No inferences about official district or campus performance in the 2015-16 school year should be drawn from these ratings and these ratings should not be considered predictors of future campus performance ratings.”

These ratings did not sit well with White and other school superintendents across the state.

“We are the exact same school district as we were when they considered it exemplary,” White said. “The only difference is a flawed incomplete system has been applied to us and a preliminary score given before the system was fully developed.”

At the center of White and DPISD’s frustrations is a metric reflecting post-secondary readiness. Within that metric is a point system given to students that complete what TEA calls as a “coherent sequence of Career an Technology Education courses.”

White said TEA’s guidelines are ambiguous for districts self-scoring the system. Like many other school districts, Deer Park ISD chose to self-report the metric based on a student’s enrollment of a CTE course. If a student chooses to enroll in a CTE course, they are given a score of 0. If the student enrolls one CTE course, such as Culinary Arts, I they received a 1. Students who complete a coherent sequence of CTE courses such as Culinary Arts I and then Culinary Arts II, receive a score of 2.

TEA based the post-secondary readiness scores on the 2014-15 school year graduates, giving Deer Park ISD a score of 13.3 percent.

“We submit our CTE codes for a coherent sequence as students who completed a coherent sequence. We (score) students a two when we know they actually completed it,” White said. “Other school districts interpret the rules another way because the students can receive the score as long as the student has the CTE courses on their graduation plan.”

Those students may never complete the required sequence, he said.

Had the district used a different interpretation of the coding on its high school seniors now enrolled in their second coherent sequence CTE course, that 13.3 percent would have risen to 50.6 percent, White said.

That simple change in coding would virtually guarantee Deer Park ISD a higher rating in that metric, according to White.

“Because TEA did this ‘build-the-plane-as-you-fly-it’ roll out, we have no option of making an adjustment to our data submission or making an appeal on the rating,” he said. “The state has never ever sent out these ‘what-if’ grades. When the ratings come down to a coding issue and not student performance, it magnifies the problems with this system.”

That problem becomes magnified in the public eye.

“These what-if grades give school districts a black eye when they are not indicative of what they are doing, they also give the community a black eye,” White said. “This premature work-in-progress release was a terrible idea.”

White said the A-F ratings is an oversimplified score that cannot accurately reflect a school district’s performance.

“It was put in place because everyone knows what an A, B, C, D and F mean in schools,” White said. “But, a letter grade does not accurately reflect where a student, or in this case a campus or school district is doing well or what areas need improvement.”

To view White’s letter to the community, click here.

To read the full report in a downloadable .PDF form, go to http://tea.texas.gov/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=51539613006