House Bill 5, passed into law at the 83rd session of the Texas Legislature, created many positive changes for public education. Many have referred to it as the most well-known bill since HB 72 in 1984, the legislation commonly known as “no pass, no play.”
Sometimes it can be difficult to get a clear comprehensive picture of how schools are really performing simply due to the overemphasis on standardized testing. Schools are known by their “rating,” determined by these tests. Most students will spend 3 or 4 days out of the year taking these tests, but what can we learn about the business of learning that takes place on the other 170+ days during the school year? The purpose of Texas Education Code 39.0545, the part of HB 5 tied directly to this new rating, is to evaluate student and community engagement, showcasing areas where schools are excelling while identifying areas where improvements can be made. It’s about much more than what happens on test day.
The Community and Student Engagement Rating gives schools this opportunity to perform a self-evaluation by taking a close look at campus and district performance in 8 factors of community and student engagement and one factor of policy compliance. The 9 factors to be evaluated are: 1) fine arts, 2) wellness/physical education, 3) community/parent involvement, 4) 21st century workforce development programs, 5) 2nd language acquisition programs, 6) digital learning environments, 7) dropout prevention strategies, 8) educational programs for gifted/talented students, and 9) compliance with statutory reporting/policy requirements. A local committee must determine the criteria that will be used to rate each of these factors. The Legislature did not specify who should be on this committee or how many times they will meet. The only requirement in statute is that the district must use the criteria developed by the committee to evaluate itself and the campuses. Districts must then assign the district and each campus a rating of exemplary, recognized, acceptable, or unacceptable for each factor. Rating must be submitted to the Texas Education Agency and made available to the public.