Humble ISD scores on the recently released, and brand new, Texas Education Agency (TEA) accountability sytem were not particularly good ones.

Fagen

The TEA school accountability system gives a letter grade (A-F) to campuses and districts in five categories (domains): (I) student achievement, (II) student progress, (III) closing achievement gaps, (IV) postsecondary readiness, and (V) community and student engagement. An overall “GPA” of the five combined scores is also computed.

When the 84th Texas Legislature passed HB 2804, it changed the Texas school accountability system so that every campus and district receives one of five ratings from A-F. According to the TEA, campuses receive grades “much like students receive grades in individual subjects and those are combined for a GPA. The law requires schools and districts to be issued grades based on five different areas of performance or “domains,” and those five grades must be combined into a single overall rating.  The overall results for Humble ISD were B/B/D/D. 

School administrators in Humble and across the state have urged their populations to withhold judgement.

HB 2804 required the TEA to provide a preliminary baseline report showing what district and campus ratings for domains I-IV would have been for the 2015-16 school year had the new rating system been in place. Domain V was not yet rated, so an overall GPA rating was not yet given to any campus or district. The TEA states that “the A-F rating for any campus is based on the best of student achievement or growth, combined with how well a school performs relative to its level of poverty, how well kids are prepared for college, career or the military, and how the local school system grades itself.”

Humble ISD received two failing grades of D in Domains III (closing achievement gaps) and IV (postsecondary readiness). The TEA measures Domain III as an effectiveness indicator that takes into account improvement of STAAR scores for economically disadvantaged students. 

Domain IV, a score on postsecondary readiness that comprises 35 percent of the overall TEA score, relies on indicators other than the STAAR test and is measured differently for the three educational levels. Elementary school scores are based solely on chronic absenteeism rates, while middle school scores take both chronic absenteeism and dropout rates into consideration. At the high school level, Domain IV is based on the graduation rate and on how many students graduate with a higher level graduation plan ready for college, career or the military. Evidence of readiness can be based on SAT/ACT/AP/IB/dual credit, an industry credential or appropriate CTE courses, or military enlistment. The same level of recognition will be given for all these categories, meaning that students who enter the military, have industry-recognized credentials, or who have high SAT/ACT scores will all be treated equally. 

Three high schools -- Atascocita, Humble and Summer Creek -- received F ratings in postsecondary readiness in the current report. Out of 41 Humble ISD schools graded, only Quest Early College High School got four straight As. Quest is a partnership between Humble ISD and Lone Star College-Kingwood, in which high school students apply to pursue an associate’s degree concurrently with their high school curriculum. In the program, students can enroll in college credit courses beginning in the ninth grade and are in all college-credit courses by their junior year.

So how does Humble ISD stack up against other school districts in Texas? Out of nearly 1,200 school districts, only two districts, Klondike ISD and Malta ISD, received straight As. One-third of districts received Ds in Domain III, and only 10-13 percent of all districts received an A in any of the four categories.

More than 160 school districts across the state have taken a public stance against the TEA’s new rating system. Administrators across the state want the Texas Legislature to know that the new system is seriously flawed, and urge lawmakers to listen to and work with teachers and administrators on improvements. Some districts have gone so far as to petition the Texas Legislature to repeal the new system, while other districts claim that it is a direct attempt to institute the school voucher system across the state. The Dallas Morning News recently reported that DeSoto ISD Superintendent David Harris said, “This continued attack on public schools is an attack on the foundation of our country. The government ‘ranking’ and comparing of schools feeds the agenda of those claiming our schools are failing and vouchers are the answer. Meanwhile, public schools tend to be underfunded and over-mandated by the state and federal governments.”

Other districts state that their job is simply to implement the legislation and are solely focused on how they will improve their preliminary TEA grades.

Humble ISD Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Fagen said in a prepared statement Jan. 6, “We embrace accountability, but it is important to remember that these ratings are one data point, largely related to the STAAR test. Our high-quality work is not easily measured by one test. All Humble ISD principals will be reviewing the provisional ratings and will dig into the underlying data in an effort to answer questions specific to their schools. Providing the educational experiences for all children that our community values and demonstrating our progress on those outcomes is what matters most.”

Additionally, the district has prepared a detailed summary entitled “Five Reasons Why the A-F Ratings Are Not An Accurate Depiction Of Our Schools;” the full document can be found at humbleisd.net/Page/90705

In summary, Humble ISD officially expressed concern that the new system utilizes a flawed methodology, inequitable comparison of wealthy and poor schools, and too much emphasis on once-per-year STAAR tests. The district states that the rules and calculations behind each letter grade are too complex, making it hard to truly understand just what a letter grade really means and thus creating false impressions. Furthermore, Humble ISD says the letter grades give no sense of what a school must do to improve.

This is part of the district's board vision statement: “Ultimately, we see schools that prepare students for many paths and that empower them with skills to successfully live in a rapidly changing world.” 

The Tribune contacted Board President Keith Lapeze for comment on why the district had apparently rated so poorly in this area, but Lapeze had not responded to The Tribune as of press time.

Humble ISD Spokesperson Jamie Mount stated that the district has many efforts designed at continuous improvement to address these areas, but that all were in work prior to the TEA assessment. One example is the district Dream Team, a group of business representatives, community leaders, parents, high school students, and educators assembled to address the needs of 21st-century students. The team first met in November 2016 and developed six core competencies to create a “Portrait of an Humble ISD Graduate.” The online survey released Jan. 13 is Phase 1, designed to gather community comment on the proposed competencies; the survey remained open until Jan. 19. Phase 2 is designed to have the community further comment on the outcome of the Phase 1 survey and is scheduled from Jan. 26 to Feb. 1 to ensure community input prior to the Dream Team’s final February meeting.

The new rating system will not be fully implemented until August 2018. In the interim, the current TEA rating system is still in place, whereby a Texas school receives one of four ratings -- unacceptable, acceptable, recognized and exemplary. The current categories are based on measures similar to the new A-F system, including the district's performance on standardized tests, dropout rates and financial health. Proponents of the new A-F system, like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, have pushed for the new system since 2013 by criticizing the current rating system for being too difficult and complex to understand. As former TEA Commissioner, Michael Williams said about the new A-F rating, "It's a system that we all grew up with. We all got grades A, B, C, D and F in school, and the public will understand, too.” HB 2804 established the 15-member Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability to develop recommendations for new systems of student assessment and public school accountability.

The Legislature approved the grading system during the 2015 session. Other states, including Oklahoma and West Virginia, have similar accountability measures. However, Virginia killed its plan to give letter grades over concerns of fairness to schools. Time will tell what the future holds for Texas school districts.

See previous coverage for the complete Humble ISD school-by-school scores. The detailed TEA report can be found at tea.texas.gov/Student_Testing_and_Accountability/Accountability/A-F_Accountability_Resources.