WAXAHACHIE — A continuous uproar from superintendents, hundreds of boards of trustee members and school districts across Region 10 to repeal two legislative priorities and encourage another has sounded off as the eighty-fifth Texas Legislature reconvened Tuesday, Jan. 10. In agreeance is the father of three future public school students, husband to a Waxahachie ISD assistant principal and WISD Board of Trustee, Matt Authier.
The trustee wrote a letter in response to the Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick after Patrick's Jan. 4th announcement that his top priority for public education matters is to pass the Bathroom Bill. The bill is also known as the ‘Women’s Privacy Act’ which prohibits the biological male entrance into the female bathroom and vice versa in public schools.
The letter stated, “[...] I cringe when I think about the embarrassing amount of time and resources which have been spent constructing and publicizing this bill across the state over the past few months. But let us not forget Mr. Patrick’s threat that he ‘didn’t come this far to come this far.' The troubling part of this is that his announcement came during the same week in which the TEA released the A-F Accountability Ratings for public schools.
“Public schools in Texas directly impact over five million students and over three hundred thousand teachers, somewhere close to twenty percent of our population. This represents a far greater percentage than would be impacted by his highly touted Bathroom Bill. I would encourage Mr. Patrick to get his priorities straight.”
He then noted that the Lieutenant Governor should keep in mind article seven of the Texas Constitution, which says the duty of the legislature is to “establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools." Authier said this is opposed to “lackluster provision, withdrawal and separation and purposeful obliteration of the system.”
“I hope that you will each take time to educate yourselves on this botched A-F grading system that was passed in the last legislative session, and then educate the stakeholders in your own districts on how senseless the grades are, and how poor of a reflection they cast on a large portion of our public school districts,” Authier wrote.
Just as other districts across Region 10, Authier said during a Tuesday interview that he believes firmly in an accountability system along with other districts. However, he noted that the A-F system should be repealed and replaced.
“In my opinion, it the system is way too heavily based on and what I think even the state has deemed a flawed testing system with the STAAR test. Until they can figure out how to standardize test kids in a way that’s fair, how can you continue to throw letter grades out at districts with that being so heavily weighted,” Authier questioned. “I think the current system absolutely needs to be repealed. Where I come from with my stance on public schools is the ability that school has is the well-rounded student that comes out of that system.”
There are four domains in which TEA used to determine the grades for school districts. WISD received the following ratings:
Student Achievement- B Student Progress- C Closing Performance Gaps- B Postsecondary Readiness- C “We received a ‘C’ in postsecondary readiness, and I think that is ridiculous. We struggle a little with the SAT and ACT scores, but that’s where the CTE program comes in. We have one of the best programs in the state. They are far too focused on the STAAR test when it comes to the four domains,” Authier explained. “We received 22 designated distinctions and a lot of those came from student progress, where we in the Top 25 percent in student progress across our campuses. When you get two different reports from the same agency that don’t align, it gets pretty confusing.”
The trustee also noticed a correlation between wealthier districts and higher A-F grades.
“We got an email with all of the grades around the region and the only one with resounding ‘A’s were Highland Park and Aledo ISD. Other than a demographic difference than most of the other districts from an economic point of view, none of them, even Midlothian, who is perceived as the golden calf around here, received B’s and C’s,” Authier said.
Authier’s frustrations also aligned with other districts who believe funding should be increased. He noted that, as Texas has one of the top economies in the country, public school funding is “embarrassing.” Even though the district did not receive an ‘F,' he shared that the lack of funding feels like an ‘F.'
“Specifically, when it comes to funding, you look at the schools that are attacked or stood out from the negative ‘C’s and ‘D’s of this A-F rating were some of those economically challenged districts. They may be doing some great things outside of the STAAR test, but they will be held to that standard. And if I’m a parent who is not informed well enough to know whether the A-F system is a good indicator and I see a ‘C’ or ‘D’ grade, I’m gonna wonder why my kid goes to that school,” Authier explained.
The third of the three priorities focuses on public school funds being distributed to private schools and homeschool students.
“Particularly, our Lieutenant Governor has that as his priority, and there couldn’t be anything more harmful to public education. I believe it’s because many of these legislatures have their kids in private schools. He’s probably getting pressured to direct all of the public school funds to those kids of those legislators who have their property taxes flowing into the public schools. That’s not what our constitution say, it says we support a public and free public school, not to direct funds away from it,” Authier said.
Superintendent Jeremy Glenn, though out of the office serving alongside the Avenue Church of Waxahachie on a mission trip, shared via email that WISD’s focus is to enable all students to achieve their highest potential, regardless of factors such as socioeconomic status, disability or performance on standardized tests.
“We know that our students are diverse in many ways, and there is no cookie cutter method for educating them. As a district, we plan to use these ratings for informational purposes, but we also understand that, as Commissioner Morath stated, they are provisional and should not be considered predictors of future ratings. Our goal as a district is to continue to work hard every day to make academic improvements on all campuses and ensure that all children receive a well-rounded education that prepares them for life after high school,” Glenn stated.
In the conclusion of his letter, Authier called upon the Lieutenant Governor to contact WISD to help improve the system in any way.
“I’m all about accountability but let’s have the people who have their kids in the district rate us, rather than the people sitting in their offices in Austin,” Authier said.
Kelsey Poynor, @KPoynor_WDL