The pushback against Texas’ high-stakes STAAR testing continues. According to this October 15th piece in the Dallas Morning News, the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium (created in 2011 to develop “innovative, next-generation learning standards and assessment and accountability systems”) will meet in Dallas this week to develop an accountability system that does not depend on STAAR. Per the story:

The group’s leaders generally share a skepticism about the validity of the state’s tests and a preference for national tests such as the SAT and ACT. They oppose the use of “one-day, high-stakes” state tests as the most important tool of accountability. They want to use non-test techniques – portfolios, for instance – for aspects of education not easily captured on a multiple-choice exam. And they want much greater local control over how districts define success.

All fair stances, especially when taking into account that this accountability system would be voluntarily participated in by school districts, and run parallel with the state’s mainstream accountability ratings, as opposed to replacing it. Taking national tests like the SAT and the ACT into account is an especially nice touch, as college readiness is a major concern in Texas education.

What remains to be seen is whether such an alternative accountability system isn’t a step toward getting out from under state standards entirely. A bill that would have let the Higher Performance Schools Coalition out of some STAAR testing reached Governor Perry’s desk at the end of the 83rd Texas Legislature. He vetoed it on the grounds that it might compromise academic rigor in the participating schools.

What Texas must create is a transparent accountability system that paints a clear picture for parents how their child’s school is performing. Including factors such as SAT and ACT achievement are good, but an A-F report card grading system for our schools, such as the one in place in Florida, would be an excellent step for Texas to take toward improving clarity in accountability. An “A” rating has more weight than the phrase “Met Standard”, just as an F has more than “Improvement Required” (both terminologies from the current system).

The unfortunate reality right now is that for many Texas parents, their local public school is the only option they have for their child. Those parents deserve a clear picture of how that school is performing. Local control and examination of comprehensive outcomes are excellent potential steps toward a thorough accountability system. But if you’re going to try to paint a total picture, A-F grading would make much clearer exactly what that picture means.