Message from the Superintendent
October 16, 2020
With the recent end of our first nine weeks of school and our second grading period underway, I want to take this opportunity to share some thoughts with you on state and local accountability. Recently, the Texas Education Agency Commissioner said, “Teaching without testing is just talking.” As your superintendent, a former teacher, spouse of a former teacher and as a parent, I strongly and vehemently disagree with this statement. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I believe this statement diminishes our profession and everything our educators strive to do on a daily basis. We are committed to providing profound learning experiences for each and every one of our students.
The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) is the state’s high stakes testing of our students. Last spring the test was waived since all schools in Texas were closed by the Governor because of COVID-19. I do appreciate that in response to the COVID-19 crisis, TEA has decided not to rate public school districts and campuses with an A-F grade this year. However, I think it is telling that without the STAAR test in the spring, rating districts and schools couldn’t happen.
Please don’t get me wrong, I am not saying the STAAR test doesn’t matter. It does play a role in the overall educational experience of our students and they do very well on STAAR, but it is just but one measure of academic progress. I and many others who have dedicated our lives to educating students believe it just shouldn’t be the only assessment that matters in measuring the accountability of a district or school or the success of a student or a teacher. Doing so results in “just talking” to the test, and not real and meaningful teaching. Just as we tell our students they are more than one day, and one test score or one grade, so are we as a district, as well as our schools. In fact, if we “just” based our accountability on the state's “grades,” we could argue in CISD that we do not need to improve in any area, because we’ve received an “A” for the past two years. That just simply is not true and not who we are as a district that believes in continuous improvement.
In CISD, we know there is more to being accountable to our community than the state’s ratings, which rely heavily on the STAAR test. We believe in a Community Accountability Based System or CBAS as a way to measure growth and identify areas of improvement. CBAS does not mean we judge our effectiveness ourselves. It means our community, which includes our parents and guardians, students, staff, local businesses and organizations, and taxpayers without children, should hold us accountable and define what success looks like for our district.
So what does matter in terms of success for CISD? Our students’ learning and making progress matters. Their readiness for college, career or the military matters. Being engaged and well-rounded students matters. Student safety and well-being matters. The professional learning and quality of our teachers and staff matters. Being fiscally responsible matters. And, as COVID-19 has taught us, the operations of our facilities matters.
I have just described for you the pillars of our Community Based Accountability System. Beyond that, I believe that resiliency matters. I believe that effort matters. I believe working hard matters. I believe that grit matters. I believe that problem solving matters. I believe that learning from our mistakes and growing matters.
You have a voice here in CISD. I encourage you to use it when we have our Fall 2020 student and family surveys later this month. As always, you can share your thoughts via firstname.lastname@example.org. We use this listening channel to measure the topics of interest in our community and to gauge where we can improve in communicating with our families. Also, be on the lookout for a follow up Lunch Bites Facebook Live session later this school year, which will extend this conversation and explore the topic of CBAS at a deeper level.
Our role as a public school district is to educate and serve all of our students and provide them with an exceptional education. You just cannot measure all of this through one state test. To say so, is just a bunch of talk.
Dr. Brad Hunt