Humble ISD just received its first grades from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) regarding school district performance. Overall, the district received a “B” rating. Individual schools were also rated, with most campuses receiving letter grades of B or C.

Only a few (eight) received an A grade, and six campuses received a D or F: Jack Fields Elementary (59 or F), Lakeland, North Belt and River Pines Elementary (66 or D), Whispering Pines Elementary (47 or F), and Humble Middle (68 or D).

Humble ISD could not receive an overall A rating due to the poor performance of these six campuses. Nearby New Caney ISD also received an overall B rating.

The TEA simplified the school ratings in 2017 per mandates by the Texas Legislature, which had been pushing since 2013 for a revised accountability system that was easy for parents and the general public to understand, like an A-F grading system that most people grew up with and therefore can relate to.

More than 1,200 school districts across the state are receiving their second such letter grade from TEA, but this is a first for Humble ISD, one of over 90 districts that were exempted from 2018 scoring due to Hurricane Harvey.

Humble ISD would have received an overall grade of 88 last year. This year, the district received a grade of 88 for student achievement based on student performance and capabilities at the end of the 2018-19 school year. The district received an 89 regarding closing the learning and achievement gaps in various student populations, but only received an 84 in the school progress score, a measure of how students perform over time compared to similar schools.

The TEA has been pruning the new assessment method since 2016, when it had a very rocky start. The earliest version upset many school districts across Texas, including Humble ISD, which received an early rating of D or F for 27 of the 41 campuses in one or more of the four categories: Student Achievement, Student Progress, Closing Performance Gaps and Post Secondary Readiness.

At the time, the district described the early version of the scoring system as a flawed methodology that incorporated inequitable comparisons of wealthy and poor schools and placed too much emphasis on STAAR testing. In short, the district strongly felt that the early version did not accurately depict the schools in the district. Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Fagen then stated that while she embraces accountability, the scores are just one data point: “Our high-quality work is not easily measured by one test.”

Instead of emphasis on standardized testing, the district is focused more on its Portrait of a Graduate model, which was shaped by more than 2,200 community comments three years ago. District spokesperson Jamie Mount said that “one of the strongest themes to emerge was the desire for less emphasis on standardized testing and more emphasis on different types of assessments.”

The new TEA grading scale focuses on three areas. Student Achievement measures what students know by the end of the academic year and is largely based on state standardized test results in all subject areas. School Progress measures how much better students are doing on the STAAR test this year versus last year, and factors in student academic performance relative to schools with similar percentages of economically disadvantaged students. Indeed, 70% of the rating is based on the higher of these two scores. The remaining 30% of the score is based on how well the district is closing performance gaps among certain racial/ethnic and socioeconomic student groups.

Fagen said that the TEA ratings are still primarily based on STAAR tests: “Educational experts, parents and the media have all questioned STAAR as a valid measure of student success,” she said.

Fagen added that Texas changes its assessment measures so often that it is difficult to compare over time. She noted that the TEA selected Humble ISD and several other school districts to develop an accountability plan that measures what the community values. Fagen said her plan is still a work in progress and that the district did not submit local accountability scores for 2019.

The district approach is different to that of TEA, she said. Humble ISD provides rigorous instruction with student accountability, which she said her instruction experts can accomplish without overly emphasizing the state tests. She went on to explain that the district is providing targeted support and personalized instruction to those schools lagging behind in order to meet their specific needs.

All Humble ISD principals generally review their campus scores to understand and improve their school’s rating. As Fagen said a year ago, “Providing the educational experiences for all (43,000) children and demonstrating our progress on those outcomes is what matters most to the community.”

More information on the TEA assessment can be found at txschools.org.

Jacqueline Havelka
Author: Jacqueline HavelkaEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
I am a rocket scientist turned writer. I worked at Lockheed Martin-Johnson Space Center for many years managing experiments on the Space Station and Shuttle, and I now own my own firm, Inform Scientific, specializing in technical and medical writing and research program management. I am a contributing correspondent to The Tribune, a Kingwood resident for 12 years, and proud mom to two Aggie sons.