Voucher proponents already exploiting A-F

In the words of a great TV show I used to enjoy: “The truth is out there.”

Texas parents and teachers got quite the shock last week with the preliminary grades under the new “A through F” accountability system, which is set to go into full effect next year. The preview saw dozens of exemplary schools receive C, D, and F ratings in one category or more.

We’ve already outlined the slew of reasons this convoluted grading scheme is a bum deal, including the further stigmatization of economically disadvantaged students and the fact that the majority of the score is based on student STAAR test results. As one district superintendent pointed out, the resulting letter grade is about as informative as an emoji.

For the record: 😐

So what’s the truth?

The folks who want to privatize public education through vouchers hope to use “A through F” to paint a false picture of “failing” public schools. Just this week, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick gave away the game.

“That’s why we need school choice. Because no parent should be forced to send their child to a school that’s a D or an F or a C, or frankly any school that they don’t think serves their child,” Patrick told the audience at a conservative think tank gathering on Wednesday, according to the Texas Tribune.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Luckily, reality looks a lot different.

Under the current accountability system, 94 percent of Texas schools “met standard,” which means they met the criteria set by the state to indicate healthy school performance. In some districts, such as McGregor ISD, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) assigned schools failing grades using the new “A through F” labels in the same categories for which the agency recognized the schools for outstanding performance under the existing accountability system.

The fact of the matter is that despite years of patently inadequate and inequitable funding, Texas schools have answered the challenge mightily. This is a problem for those who hope to get rich by replacing free public schools with a for-profit education system, which is why their allies in the Texas Legislature are already working hard to make sure parents and teachers don’t repeal “A through F.”

Patrick vowed this week the new grading scheme “is not going away.” There are measures, including HB 843 by state Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D-El Paso), that would repeal the system, but any fix will require the combined efforts of parents and teachers.

As ATPE continues to monitor developments, make sure and familiarize yourself with what “A through F” really does, and please help us educate lawmakers about the truth.

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