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Testimony Before the Senate Education Committee

Testimony Before the Senate Education Committee

In Support of A-F Campus Ratings – SB 6

March 12, 2015

Delivered by Jarrad Toussant

Good morning Chairman Taylor, members of the committee.  My name is Jarrad Toussant and I’m representing Texans for Education Reform. Thank you for the opportunity to voice our support for SB 6.

In every community across the state, there are schools that are delivering education to our children.  Yet if you ask parents and families, most could not tell you how well their schools are serving kids.

The state appropriates approximately $19 billion in general revenue to fund schools -  roughly 40% of the total state budget.

Given this investment in the education and of our state’s children, Texas families deserve to know how their schools are performing.

Every Texas parent receives letter grades for their students, but no such explicit performance measurement is given to school campuses. Currently, the state’s public schools are labeled either “met standard” or “improvement required” ― the equivalent of a “pass-fail” rating.

A-F campus ratings will accomplish three important objectives:

increase focus on student outcomes,

improve performance at struggling schools and close achievement gaps and

improve parent and community engagement.

Regarding the first point of increased focus on student outcomes, a 2013 report by the American Institutes for Research looked at the differences between the top performing states and the lowest performing states.  The top performers generally had policies and practices like strong accountability, rigorous and benchmarked assessments, and teacher evaluations.  The report specifically touts Florida, and mentions A-F grades as key factor in their designation as a top performing state.

In relation to the second objective of improved performance of struggling schools, with the implementation of the A-F rating system, a greater focus will be placed on Texas’ struggling students. Students at F schools in Florida fared better on the state standardized tests subsequent to the adoption of A-F ratings compared to similar students at schools that received higher grades. Florida’s low-income fourth graders now lead the nation in National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading scores. In fact, the most recent NAEP data shows that between 2011 and 2013, Florida was the only state in the nation to narrow the achievement gap between white and black students in fourth and eighth-grade reading and math. 

As it relates to the final objective of increasing parent and community engagement, we can all agree that parent engagement is a key factor in the success of students and schools. According to one parent in Florida who witnessed first hand the impact of A-F campus ratings:

“In Florida, we’ve seen communities rally around schools with low grades. If a child is attending a D or F school, parents work to figure out how they can help that school improve. The grading system gives parents the tools to make these choices in their children's education.” Brenda Duplantis, Orlando, FL, Member of Multicultural Education Alliance, Mom of 3 boys

In the first week after rolling out their school grades, the Oklahoma State Department of Education website received 680,000 hits.  This amounts to 25,000 more hits than they have students in the entire state.  With so many people engaged and informed, the education of their students garners the increased focus and attention it deserves.

Members of the committee, we have an opportunity in one powerful policy to increase focus on student outcomes, improve the performance of struggling schools, close achievement gaps, and increase parent and community engagement.  We urge your support.