Award-winning school leader says new A-F rating system good but INFLATES all schools’ ratings

via press release:

Rise Academy’s pass rates were between 84 and 100 percent in all subjects on the 2018 STAAR tests, but, with the new A – F Accountability System, the charter school’s overall grade is a ‘B.’

“It’s a solid performance,” stated Rise Director Richard Baumgartner. “We had very high official pass rates, but somewhat lower scores in the two other areas of measurement, and that pulled us down to an overall scaled score of 88, which is a ‘B’ – maybe you could say a ‘B+,’” he added.

Rise Academy’s resulting scores in the three performance areas were as follows:

  • Student Achievement – based on STAAR pass rates, Rise Academy scored a 91, or an ‘A.’
  • School Progress – a measure of how much better (or worse) students did on the STAAR tests in 2018 versus the year before.  Rise overall scored a 92.  Again, an ‘A.’
  • Closing the Gaps – this measure compares performance among students groups, in Rise Academy’s case, apparently, between the school’s very few higher income students versus the vast majority of lower income students.  Here, Rise scored only a 78, for a ‘C.’

Rise also earned “Distinction Designations” in 6 of 7 categories of measurement.  Rise did not have enough students tested in the social studies category to earn that distinction, but had a 100 percent pass rate in that subject.

Baumgartner claimed that the determination of the passing standard for a given STAAR test is flawed and leads parents and the public to view school performance as better than it really is.

Baumgartner said that the new A—F rating system is a good idea and easy to understand.  However, he strongly criticized the basis upon which these letter grades are determined.  Specifically, Baumgartner claimed that the determination of the passing standard for a given STAAR test is flawed and leads parents and the public to view school performance as better than it really is.

There are now four performance categories or ranges on the STAAR tests:  Did Not Meet, Approaches Standard, Meets Standard, and Mastery.  Scores in the Did Not Meet range are not passing. Scores in the Approaches are considered by the state as passing, and it’s this standard that Baumgartner claims distorts the true picture of student performance and inflates schools’ ratings.

“On some tests, a student can fall into the lower end of the Approaches range with a score of, say, only 40 or 50 percent correct answers and still pass,” explains Baumgartner. “Using an ‘A—F’ frame of reference, a 40 never equates to passing.  But with the new system, that 40 percent is, in some cases, considered passing.” 

“On some tests, a student can fall into the lower end of the Approaches range with a score of, say, only 40 or 50 percent correct answers and still pass,” explains Baumgartner. “Using an ‘A—F’ frame of reference, a 40 never equates to passing.  But with the new system, that 40 percent is, in some cases, considered passing.” 

Baumgartner says that state accountability experts claim the STAAR tests can’t be looked at in a straight-scale manner, but, says Baumgartner, “Either the tests are too hard, and that allows for a lower bar, or they are not.  Certainly the tests are challenging, but not to the degree that we should accept a score of 43 or 51 percent correct answers as good enough for passing.  But we are.  So right now, I think we’re all kind of fooling ourselves about how well students are really performing.”

Baumgartner explained that Rise requires a higher minimum score for its students to pass the STAAR tests.  The school uses the median score of the “Approaches” range as its passing standard.  For example, the Approaches category on the 7th grade Math test ranges from 40 to 60 percent correct answers. The middle or median score is therefore 50.  This raw percentage of percent correct answers correlates to a certain scale score — in this case, a scale score of 1620.  So, for Rise students to pass the 7th grade math test, they would have to achieve a minimum scale score of 1620.

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