What About This A-F Report Card Refresh?

I've worked as a public school educator for over thirty years and have seen a lot. Like our teachers and support staff, we do it because we love kids and believe they are our future.



I am both a product of and a champion for public education. With that stated, I want to share a little insight into a pending injustice about to be inflicted upon our teachers and their hard work. In the planned special session this Fall, you will likely hear about more money for teachers again. And who doesn't want that? Historically, it is usually less than promised and never sustained. But more interestingly, it will be aligned with the greatest insult to our educator's intelligence in the history of student assessments. Statewide testing, as alluded to in the headline, can be referenced back to the year I graduated from high school, during the 66th legislature, when a law was enacted requiring basic skills testing designed to ensure to the general public that teachers were doing their jobs and that students were learning.


Over the next few decades, the state adopted several assessment instruments known as TABS, TEAMS, TAAS, and TAKS, each considered more rigorous than the previous in our Cold War race to the top mission. The legislature empowered the commissioner of education to establish, assess, and report the outcomes to the public. When the current test was created, we were told that all other tests had paled in comparison to the assessment now known as the STAAR exam. It was presented as a synthesis comprehension platform that students could not master through rote memorization and regurgitation and would require students to apply various levels of rigor for each question and that it was the end-all, be-all for student assessment in Texas.


The hype is validated in that the assessment is challenging and has required all teachers to do what the best teachers have always done. We believe that children must be taught "how to learn" before they can conquer retention of content. Each child must be taught to use their critical thinking skills to attain a collective knowledge base to master problem-solving. Simply put, this is the art of transferring the responsibility for learning to the student. The STAAR test was designed with this synthesis approach to learning in mind. As a result of the continual adapting form of assessment, there would no longer be a need to adjust the passing score each year, as it had been done with previous test platforms, as this test had postulated that any child who could pass the STAAR would have demonstrated proficiency without need to adjust the average passing score.


Now, within the realm of a sports analogy, imagine that your child has studied the rules, practiced with drills applicable to the sport, and joyfully entered the game. However, once the game began, the "head official" decided the rules were not reflecting what he wanted, so he changed the rules so that winning the game was no longer attainable; in fact, the 'head official" decided that no one should win because it did not serve the agenda well. In fact, he decided that this year's game was over before it started so he would now go back and apply the new "nobody could win rule" to last year's games too. If you think this analogy seems silly, imagine how mad you'd be if it were happening. I'll let you decide, but here is a quote from the Commissioner of Education for the Texas Education Agency.


"This year is different with the updated standards. Therefore, the 2022 and 2023 ratings cannot be compared side-by-side. It is possible that a campus with an A in 2022 may improve in 2023 and yet receive a B." ~ Mike Morath


He goes on to say that ratings may drop more than one grade letter as a matter of his almost 30-point adjustment to the passing cut points, all of which are available on the TEA website. These extreme swings in how the same assessment is "scored" after it has already been administered do not qualify as a "refresh" but a true injustice to our students and their respective teachers who have poured so much into them. I'm going to loop back around to say that these are not excuses for the letter grades that are about to be released by TEA for schools across the state but an attempt to expose the truth about what may be an ulterior motive aligned with a predetermined agenda, directly linked to political efforts to imply that public schools are failing. This "refresh" of our test scores is undoubtedly an overt exercise in diminishing the public's confidence in what we do as a public institution. To be clear, we are NOT failing! We hear a cry for school choice, yet public schools provide more choice for our families than at any other time in history. State-of-the-art early childhood, enhanced electives, broad curriculum choice, and enriched college and career pathways are what used to be options only at the private or college prep levels. We have answered the call of our commercial and industrial partners to provide higher-order thinking and soft skills to our graduates, who are prepared to lead our community well into the future. Our Texas public has a right to know what is happening from the inside out. This is not a conspiracy theory but a hard reality likely linked to political motives. The 2022 and 2023 school year scores will likely be released with a retrofitted application of the new method of calculating test scores, "the updated standards," again after the tests have been administered. Forget what you ever knew about the 100-point scale, as it will be a whole new ball game! That is why many school districts across the state and our region have decided to take legal action against the commissioner for not abiding by his policies. Public schools will continue to prevail despite intentional budgetary restrictions and overt attempts to harm the public image of our nation's lifeline called public education for one reason. Our public, customers, communities, parents, and students know that the public education we provide today is extraordinarily better than it was a generation ago. It continues to improve each year and is paramount to a successful America! Schedule a tour of a campus today to see for yourself!


Dr. Randal O'Brien, Ed. D.

Superintendent of Schools