Schools, jobs, and our very lives are on hold. School accountability A-F ratings must be put on hold as well.
Community Voices for Public Education recommends that Texas schools are not rated this year and are not rated the subsequent two years. In addition, this global pandemic highlights that we must focus on improving equity and access for the vulnerable and the poor instead of endless test-and-punish accountability models. The goal is to help children grow, not to rate and sort them.
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Georgia, Oklahoma, Florida, New York and many other states are suspending accountability and are not rating schools at all this year. They are seeking the maximum waivers as allowed by the US Dept of Education. Georgia State School Superintendent Woods said, “It’s common sense: testing and accountability requirements should not place an additional burden on students, parents, and educators during this time, and they will not in Georgia.”
Texas should be doing what Georgia and other states are doing and should suspend the state’s A-F school ratings. Currently, the only guidance from the Texas Education Agency is to extend last year’s school ratings to this school year. That makes no sense at all.
The only fair and reasonable decision is NOT RATED for at least two years. We strongly advise the Texas Education Agency to exercise compassion and disavow their current plan to extend last year’s ratings to the 2019-20 school year. Schools with D’s or F’s in 2018-19 would have a “failing grade” two years in a row—even though no one took the STAAR this year. Duplicating 2018-19 grades allows the TEA to continue taking over school districts and closing and chartering schools.
Next year, TEA should again NOT use STAAR to rate students, teachers or schools. TEA should instead use STAAR to see where we are after this global pandemic. There should be no stakes attached. The next school year will be spent catching up with what was lost this year. Kids will have learning gaps and - like all of us- are going through massive upheaval right now. Evaluating learning based on pre-crisis measures is completely unreasonable and unfair.
Will you email the Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath at email@example.com to demand that Texas make the right choice and suspend school ratings this year and next?
As we think about accountability, we must also remember that this global pandemic exacerbates the broad equity divide in our schools. About 15% of US students do not have internet connectivity at home. In Houston, 35% of Houston area households do not have wifi access in their homes. That leaves many students with no access to remote instruction at all; with access only through their limited data on their phone; or sharing one computer with five family members. While the more affluent can supplement instruction by hiring tutors or by tutoring their own kids, the vulnerable and the poor do not have that luxury. This pandemic also lays bare the inequities for children for whom school is their only safe place, their only respite from physical abuse and neglect in the home.
With the heightened effects of the equity divide on the vulnerable and the poor in mind, it will NOT be business as usual come August. We need to be planning NOW to provide additional funding and personnel to help students who will need extensive remediation and social-emotional support when the schoolhouse doors re-open. It will take a massive influx of funds to our schools in the fall to pay for what students and families need to recover- smaller classes, more teachers, expanded tutoring, remediation support and more counselors and nurses.
We don’t know what will come next. But we know this. We cannot use STAAR for anything other than for diagnostic purposes for the foreseeable future. Coming out of this crisis, the only fair thing to do is to gather data with no stakes and use that to guide decision-making moving forward.
We must use this time to reflect: what does it mean to measure growth when the whole country and world has been interrupted? What should we do differently? Can we make a commitment as a response to Corona to address poverty and inequality that occurs OUTSIDE the schoolhouse doors so that we improve learning inside the school?