A controversial plan to start assigning public schools A-through-F grades cleared a Texas House panel Tuesday night — but not without other changes to the state's accountability system that reduced the role student assessments play in measuring public school performance.
"I’m personally willing to swallow A-F if we get a better accountability system out of it,” said House Public Education Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen.
The education panel heard testimony on Senate Bill 6, high-priority legislation from Senate Education Chairman Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, that would replace the state's current system of rating schools as "met standard" or "needs improvement" to A-through-F grades. The bill has already passed the Senate.
But instead of approving SB 6 as a standalone measure, the committee folded it into House Bill 2804, which makes larger changes to the way the state evaluates schools.
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The 7-4 vote came after a hearing during which many members of the education panel — Republicans and Democrats — expressed reservations about changing to letter grade ratings.
Calling the proposal "embarrassing" and "demoralizing" for teachers, state Rep. Alma Allen, D-Houston, questioned the effects such labels would have on communities.
Others said different terminology without broader reforms to the state's accountability system would do little good.
"I don't care what we call it if the accountability system is fair. It’s not fair right now," said state Rep. Ken King, R-Canadian.
Under the new bill, student performance on state standardized exams would remain the primary measure of school performance. But it would no longer be as dominant a factor in determining a school's accountability rating. About 45 percent of the rating would take into account a variety of additional information — such as community engagement, AP course enrollment, attendance and dropout rates.