Fort Bend ISD prepares for new state accountability system

Fort Bend ISD is preparing for the new statewide accountability system that is set to go into effect in 2018, even as FBISD trustees and administrators ask legislators to implement a more meaningful accountability system.

The FBISD Board of Trustees conducted its November board workshop at Bush High School on Nov. 7, inviting parents and community members to speak to board members and district leaders during the first half of the evening. Following the dialogues, the workshop included an informational presentation on accountability from Dr. Megan Evans, FBISD Director of Innovation and Continuous Improvement.

Beginning in 2018, the state will transition from a four-index system to a five-domain system, with each campus and the district receiving six A-F letter grades: one grade in the five domains, as well as an overall grade. Although the state has not yet released exactly how the letter grades will be calculated, approximately 55 percent of the campus and districts’ overall grade will be based on the first three domains, which board members noted are largely based on standardized tests.

Trustee Jim Rice questioned the rationale for the new system, believing it may have an adverse effect.

“This will help make sure that we teach to the test,” said Rice.

“I find that very disheartening and disturbing because I think, especially FBISD, as we are the most diverse district in the state of Texas, to say one letter grade is going to explain the whole story behind one of our schools is ridiculous,” said board member Grayle James. “If our students are making progress year to year, I think that is a better measure of how well we’re doing.”

Timeline

The state is set to release the set of indicators that will be used to measure and evaluate school districts and campuses by Dec. 1, 2016. School districts across the state will receive provisional grades in the new system in January 2017. These grades will be given to schools and the district, as if the system were already in place. The official start of the new accountability system will be the summer of 2018.

Priority Schools

During the board workshop, Dr. Mark Foust, FBISD Chief of Schools, explained that Fort Bend ISD has proactively identified 15 Priority Schools that are receiving additional support and resources based on student performance data from the current accountability system. Those schools are also at risk of receiving lower grades when preliminary letter grades are announced.

There are 10 elementary Priority Schools: Briargate, Ridgemont, Armstrong, Burton, Jones, Blue Ridge, Goodman, Lantern Lane, Mission West and Hunters Glen. There are five secondary Priority Schools: McAuliffe, Missouri City, and Lake Olympia Middle Schools, and Willowridge and Marshall high schools.

“For the priority campuses, we have focused our attention on providing significant additional resources that are intended to specifically support and improve classroom instructional practices and ensure positive campus climate and culture to meet the needs of each student,” said Dr. Foust.

Legislative Priorities

Earlier this fall, the district’s board of trustees adopted a resolution specific to the accountability system, urging state legislators to revise the system so that it looks beyond high-stakes, multiple-choice tests to meaningful assessments that have value for students, parents, and teachers, as well as measures what each community deems important in promoting college and career readiness.

Support for all campuses

In the meantime, the district’s Department of Innovation and Continuous Improvement is working with principals to help them understand the new A-F system, even before the indicators that will be used to calculate the ratings are known.

This is in addition to the department’s ongoing efforts to identify ways that all campuses can improve their instruction efforts.

“As 2016 comes to a close, we will know more about the specific data that will be used to calculate the ratings, marking a significant change for Fort Bend ISD and districts across the state,” said Evans.

“What has not changed is our commitment to ensuring that all campuses have the support and resources they need in order to meet their students’ needs.

We believe in continuous improvement at all of our schools throughout the district. There is always room for growth.”

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