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North Texas School Districts Tapped By State To Create Local Accountability Systems

Andy Simonds

The Texas Education Agency recently announced 20 school systems will be part of a pilot program to develop local accountability systems. That’s now possible because of a law passed during the recent legislative session, which allows school districts to develop their own protocol to evaluate their schools.

How will the pilot program work?

The school systems chosen to participate will meet four times during the spring. They’ll come up with measures for grading campuses that aren’t tied to standardized test scores.

This won’t replace the statewide A through F grading system, which grades schools and districts in three areas – student achievement, school progress and closing the gaps.

Which school systems are participating in the pilot program?

In North Texas, they include the Dallas Independent School District, Sunnyvale Independent School District, Premier High Schools and Richland Collegiate High School.

Sunnyvale ISD already has a local accountability system in place, which it began developing five years ago. The district looks at factors like the number of dual credit hours students are taking and how well students doing in the district’s fine arts program.

Every fall, Sunnyvale ISD publishes what’s called a Community Report card that’s mailed out to everyone who lives in the district.

“One of the things that we really looked at was the fact that the accountability system in place was good and we were scoring at the top of the accountability system,” said Sunnyvale ISD Superintendent Doug Williams. “At the time, it was the TAKS test, and we were an exemplary district but we believed that wasn’t really telling the entire story.”

Dallas ISD has something similar called the School Performance Framework for Campus Success.

Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said having an internal accountability system gives parents and others a more accurate reflection of how students are doing.

He said employers often tell him they want students who have so-called soft skills – students who know how to communicate and work in teams.

“So we’re proposing that 5 percent of our accountability system be based upon how many kids we have involved in extracurricular, co-curricular [activities],” Hinojosa said. “Because businesses are looking for the whole child success, not just on how well you can read or how well you can do math, but how can you do all those other things.”

What happens after these school systems come up with their own local accountability system? How will they be implemented?

TEA will have to approve individual plan. Once approved, districts and charter schools can begin using them as soon as the 2018-2019 school year, in conjunction with the state accountability system.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.