Schools take issue with new state accountability system

The state of Texas rolled out a new A-F grading system this year to assess individual schools and districts based on standardized testing results. The complex system of sub-population indicators, categories, and other data gathered on a state level is reduced to a simple letter grade. Educators argue that when presented to the public as a stand alone assessment, is not an accurate representation of student or school success.

“It’s unfair to most of the schools in the state of Texas,” principal Lane Buban said. “The state has taken a simplistic form of grading and applied it to something that is more complicated than what it leads people to believe. You can’t simplify a student’s success. You can’t simplify what an individual student is capable of by giving the school a letter grade.”

With the changes the state is making to the grading system, communities are receiving mixed signals about the success and progress of schools.

“The system is flawed,” Buban said. “There are some blue ribbon schools that have received some Ds. Looking at our own school, we met standard the past three years in a row and we’ve earned five distinctions out of seven that the state gives high schools, but the new system makes it look like we aren’t doing what we need to.”

Despite the method the state uses to assess schools, Buban and Bryan High continue to work to help students succeed. Bryan High implemented the use of an advisory period this year is to allow for more direct instructions depending on student needs.

“BHS still needs to improve on what we’re doing,” Buban said. “The advisory period is not a perfect system, but it does provide the school with an opportunity to affect some positive changes with students who are struggling.”

Bryan High aims to educate students on a broad spectrum, not just on five tests given by the state. Buban sees the complexities of student learning and would like to recognize student success across all areas.

“BHS needs to spend time looking at ways we can assess student success in multiple ways,” Buban said. “There needs to be some way we can have students show success in different areas or aptitudes that require a broader testing platform for students. There’s got to be a way that we can show that students have capabilities in the fine arts and music. Those are areas where we can do better at providing a way to show student success.”

With the Bryan ISD Board of Trustees passing a resolution calling on the state legislature to repeal the A-F grading system, they have joined with districts across the state in expressing their dissatisfaction with the system.

“Public schools don’t want to be given a simplistic letter grade or have a simplistic way of rating system,” Buban said. “Educators and a lot of public schools feel like students are diverse and that they have a diverse way of showing aptitude or success. There are many ways schools and students can show success other than standardized testing. I’m not saying that we don’t need standardized testing because we do need to be held accountable, but I think it can be better.”

No matter what the circumstances may be Buban is committed to making sure BHS is successful.

“I don’t know if standardized testing is going away,” Buban said. “It is what it is and we will do the best we can with whatever we’re given, and I will find a way for this campus to be successful no matter what system we’re under.”