Just the words “report card” generate memories and emotion for most people. Seeing a grade on your performance brings anxiety and apprehension. What follows can be a celebration, a litany of excuses, or a real evaluation and course correction to change that performance and raise the grades.
The state Board of Education this week delayed the process to implement a grading system for our state's schools. The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber has supported the development of an A-F grading system. We support the effort because we believe there should be a more straightforward, easy-to-understand method for parents, stakeholders and taxpayers to understand the quality of the schools in their community. The previous system simply didn't give us enough information — it told us which schools were failing, but did little to identify the schools that aren't reaching their potential or might be mired in mediocrity. As a community, we need more.
Naturally, educators are concerned about the system. They don't want an unfair light placed on their schools. We encourage educators to embrace this system in the same way they encourage parents to embrace their own grading systems — understand what goes into the grade and why it's important and then work with teachers, parents, students and the community to see that grade improved.
At the heart of this conversation is an expectation that all of our children have excellent schools. To achieve this, it's vital that we define what good schools look like. Our previous system did a good job of identifying which schools are failing. But we should expect more than a pass/fail system. Good parents expect to see letter grades that explain how their child is performing. They wouldn't let that child slide by with less. Neither should we.
Examples of excellence can be found in Oklahoma City with two of the highest-rated high schools in America, Harding Charter Prep and Classen School of Advanced Studies. Oklahoma needs more schools like these. The grading system helps us understand how all of our schools are performing. All schools, not just failing schools, need our attention and our interest.
The new system is a necessary step in improving education in Oklahoma. Improvements may be needed in the formula, but waiting for the perfect model is an opportunity lost. This grading system will create a new conversation about what it takes to have great schools. It would be irresponsible for us to pass off these grades as just more education politics and not use them as a chance to ask better questions about the changes needed to create the excellence we all want, and our children deserve.
Williams is president and CEO of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber.