A little over two weeks after the release of report cards for each of Oklahoma's 1,744 school sites, the A-F grading system is already having more impact than the prior Academic Performance Index system of school evaluation.
After posting the school grades, the Oklahoma Department of Education's website experienced as many as 29,000 transactions per minute. In less than a week, the A-F Report Card had about 679,580 hits. That's more hits than there were students in Oklahoma schools last year. Clearly, the public is paying attention to school evaluations that were ignored in the past.
The attention is already prompting school officials to proactively address shortcomings. Muskogee Superintendent Mike Garde acknowledged to a local newspaper that some student subgroups were “not doing as well as we liked.” He pledged a renewed focus on them. He also noted a new principal has been installed at an elementary school that got a D.
In Edmond, Ida Freeman Elementary Principal Brenda McDonald said a focus on improvement began in August when she first learned the school would likely get a C. The school now has a science and social studies coordinator to work with teachers and students to help them catch up.
These are positive changes enacted, at least in part, because of the heightened public scrutiny fostered by the A-F system. It also shows why the state Board of Education was right to reject an alternative calculation suggested by some superintendents.
Without getting into the minutia, which focused on how to calculate student growth, the results make clear that the superintendents' proposed alternative would have significantly watered down the grading scale. Instead of having 57 percent of Oklahoma schools get an A or B, the superintendents' model would have placed an astounding 70 percent in those top two categories.