East Texas students have the right to a “quality, free public education,” the Mount Pleasant ISD superintendent said Thursday, and educators agree that a one-day test shouldn’t be a measure of academic success.

Longview ISD hosted an education summit that brought school leaders, lobbyists and state legislators to Longview on Wednesday and Thursday to mull education policy.

Earlier in the day, state Reps. Jay Dean, R-Longview; Gary VanDeaver, R-New Boston; and Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, were invited to give their reactions to the 85th Legislature, which ended in 2017, but the presentation quickly turned into a question-and-answer session.

Educators expressed disapproval with unfunded mandates by the Texas Education Agency, the A-F academic accountability system, lack of state funding and high Teacher Retirement System of Texas health insurance premiums. Their dissatisfaction with the A-F system dominated discussions in the morning and afternoon.

The A-F ratings are calculated using three domains: student achievement, school progress and closing the gaps. Student achievement and school progress domains account for 70 percent of the rating and rely heavily on State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness scores.

In an afternoon session, Mount Pleasant ISD Superintendent Judd Marshall, White Oak ISD Superintendent Mike Gilbert, Tyler ISD Superintendent Marty Crawford and Lindale ISD Superintendent Stan Surratt talked about their expectations for the upcoming 86th legislative session and its focal issues.

Marshall and the other panelists said the legislative session that begins Jan. 8 in Austin needs to bring positive changes in public education.

“We’ve got to make sure that we’re putting legislators (in Austin) that’s going to put us in the best position that we can be in as a state,” Marshall said. “Public education’s been doing good for Texas for some time, so the fact that we’re failing is incorrect.”

Crawford encouraged the educators and school advocates to talk with legislators and “stay on message.”

“A-F, the deficiencies in that, that’s something to focus on … (and) school safety, social and emotional support for our students. How can you deny some of those things, especially if you stay on message? … I think it would go a long way,” he said.

The “Met Standard” or “Improvement Required” accountability system implemented by TEA from 2013-17 “made sense,” Gilbert said. He said the A-F rating doesn’t give community members “any better idea” of a district’s academic performance.

“If you ‘Met Standard,’ you have cleared the bar that should say, ‘It’s up to your local school board, leadership team and community to see where you go from there.’ … If you’re ‘Improvement Required,’ the state comes in … and holds you more accountable,” he said.

Because TEA will emphasize campus ratings next year, Surratt said voters shouldn’t “let them off the hook.”

“All your campuses are going to get a different grade, and that’s going to pit teachers against teachers (and) administrators. ... We should never label a group of students, teachers or community on a single letter grade. (Policymakers) can’t explain what we do,” Surratt said.

Changing the academic accountability system now isn’t good for the system, Crawford said.

“I know everybody can’t stand A-F (scores). Everybody’s going to talk about how to get promises from people who are running for an office about doing away with it. ... Let’s stick to something, and let’s get good at it,” he said.

Summit presenters included Amy Beneski of the Texas Association of School Administrators, Marty DeLeon of Escamilla & Poneck law firm, Blake Cooper of Friends of Texas Public Schools and Tim Lee of the Texas Retired Teachers Association.

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