Day: <span>May 15, 2015</span>

Students need real help, not labels


The A-F grading system for individual schools, which the Texas House has now joined the Senate in approving, will stigmatize students – mostly low-income children – while doing nothing to improve performance.

It also will make it easier to label schools as “failures,” clearing the way for takeover by corporate-run charters and generating profits (with our tax dollars) for landlords and charter management companies.

As The Dallas Morning News reported, data presented to legislators have indicated that, on average, the state’s lowest performing schools have enrollments that are 86 percent economically disadvantaged. That means their students are primarily low-income and/or of limited English-speaking ability, and they are the schools most likely to be marked with “Ds” or “Fs.”

Research indicates that poverty has a significant impact on educational achievement. Poor children can succeed, but this rating system would serve only to punish poverty-stricken students – and do nothing to provide them greater opportunity.  The A-F system only serves the interests of education privateers, not the children who need the most help.

“Why should we place the blame on the kids?” asked Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, in debating unsuccessfully against the A-F proposal.

Why, indeed.

The House and the Senate have passed different versions of the A-F rating requirement. So more votes will be necessary before the legislation goes to the governor, but House approval increased the likelihood that the proposal will become law.

The House version is part of a broader bill by Public Education Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock that would create a fairer accountability system for public schools. Aycock’s accountability system would reduce the role that standardized tests play in measuring school performance and include other factors – such as graduation percentages, attendance, dropout rates and parental engagement – as well.

Aycock is to be commended for his attempt to improve the overall accountability system, and adding the A-F grading system could improve the bill’s chances in the Senate. But, at least at the outset, low-income schools would get the worse marks, and A-F grading systems have been unsuccessful in improving campus performances in other states where they have been tried.

Disadvantaged children don’t need “Ds” and “Fs” or corporate takeovers of their neighborhood schools. They need more help and support from their local communities, which is why TSTA is supporting separate legislation to encourage use of the Community Schools model, which has been effective in Texas and a number of other states in turning around struggling schools.

This approach, which also is advancing in the House, would enable teachers, parents, local businesses and non-profits to work together to provide students and their families all the resources necessary for classroom success. Success requires hard work, not labels.