Texas schools are getting a grading overhaul.
Starting with the 2017-2018 school year, all schools in the state will be evaluated and graded on an A-F scale similar to a report card. The move, which has been hotly contested by a majority of educators, has a small provision that may expand freedom of choice for students preparing to graduate.
The new grading system evaluates schools on four metrics, one of which is “postsecondary readiness.” Historically, that has been measured in terms of how many students move on to go to college.
Now, it has been expanded to include those who go to work and those who enlist in the military.
Brackenridge High School Principal Yessenia Cordova says that one provision has been a silver lining.
"Making that choice now goes to our kids, and our job is just to facilitate,” said Principal Cordova, who added that educators face implicit and societal pressures to encourage students to go to college, something she acknowledges isn’t the right choice for everyone.
That bias can turn into pressure for students who choose an alternate path, like Brackenridge senior Christian Gonzalez.
“I've already enlisted in the United States Army. I have a contract to head off to basic training one week after graduation,” said Gonzalez, a Cadet Lieutenant Colonel in the Brackenridge JROTC. “When people found out that I enlisted as a junior, they asked me questions like, 'Why are you doing that? Why aren't you going to college? You're making a mistake.’”
Gonzalez says that he faced what he calls a stigma, despite the fact that he says he plans to serve in the Army as a means of attaining a college education. He says that, by adopting a new policy, the state is taking steps toward reducing that stigma.
That is, assuming, it can be put into practice.
According to Marisa Perez with the State Board of Education, it hasn’t been worked out logistically.
"There isn't anything in place to identify military enlistment or to identify those industry certifications just yet,” said Perez, who added that the state has a lot of work to do to figure what constitutes adequate military service or work history for the purpose of school grading.
And that’s just a tiny part of a massive overhaul that is far from ready.
But Gonzalez says that this change alone, even if it is just an idea for now, can make a lot of difference for students debating their future.
"I believe it's a decision you have to make on your own,” Gonzalez said. “And I have a pretty clear picture of what I want to do."
The Texas Education Agency has appointed a 15-member committee to make recommendations for putting this new school accountability system in place. While the decision to encourage military enrollment and work readiness has been largely praised by educators, the majority of the changes have not.
Wednesday on KENS 5, we'll explore the broad changes facing Texas schools as a result of these policy changes.