The state’s controversial new rating system for public schools handed the Kaufman ISD a “B” in the first round, announced last week.
Kaufman Superintendent Lori Blaylock said that while the district performed very well given its number of economically disadvantaged and bilingual students, “There are better ways to gauge the success of the district.”
A lengthy list of factors was not considered by the accountability system that Kaufman has put into place to help students achieve and succeed.
Among those is a wide range of career and technology programs that were impacted by rule changes that make them no longer qualify as part of the rating.
The Texas Association of School Administrators is on the record as opposing the state’s accountability system for a number of reasons, and Blaylock said she endorses the TASA position.
The system seems to be a tool to cast public education in a negative light, she said.
Even though Kaufman did very well, the rating has no meaning, Blaylock said, and the system does nothing to tell the district how it can improve.
She said she in is favor of local control of school districts.
“Our community could come together and come up with four or five things we want in our town,” she said.
“I’m not anti-accountability, but the people in this community know what they want,” she said.
And that can differ from one community to the next.
For example, nearby Sunnyvale is among the leaders across the state in developing and using a community-based accountability system that it sends to its patrons every year.
That community has specific interests in its students being prepared to get into the nation’s top universities.
But those efforts to earn high college entrance exam scores would not be included in the state accountability system.
Blaylock said she is very interested in Kaufman developing community-based accountability. The district is discussing taking part in a pilot program with Mesquite ISD.
TASA is advocating for a community-based system at the state level. But whether that could become reality when the state legislature meets again next spring is another matter, especially given an apparent anti-public education attitude among some top state leaders.
Blaylock pointed to the hundreds of millions of dollars the state spends on standardized testing, the results of which make up a large part of the accountability rating.
School leaders wonder what could be done more productively with that money, she said.
And just as administrators expected, the districts’ letter grades corresponded very closely with economically disadvantaged and bilingual student numbers. The districts with the lowest numbers of students in those two categories generally scored higher ratings.
Kaufman has 69.7 percent economically disadvantaged students and 15.8 percent non-English speakers.
Blaylock was among three local superintendents who filed a complaint with the federal Office of Civil Rights when the first accountability model was announced that would assign each school district a letter grade a couple years ago.
In the footnotes they found information that the Texas Education Agency knew the results would be skewed according to those factors.
Though Blaylock does not know what happened behind closed doors, she feels that a new model that included a growth component was a nod to their complaint.
When it comes to bilingual students, Kaufman is enrolling more of those students every year.
Studies show it takes a non-English speaker five years to develop the vocabulary necessary to take standardized tests, Blaylock said.
But the state requires those students to be tested after just two years. And the results are predictable.
“It’s a frustrating time but an exciting time to be in education,” she said.
“I am proud of our kids and our schools and the community that supports them.”
Visit tasanet.org for information on how Texas school leaders view the system.
The organization’s official position: “Advocate for the establishment of a comprehensive accountability system that looks beyond high-stakes, multiple-choice exams 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. Oppose A–F campus and district ratings.”