With the most failing schools, Tulsa leaders suspect methods

BY MEGAN ROLLAND mrolland@opubco.com Published: December 2, 2012

Of the 10 schools that received F's in the entire state one was in Oklahoma City, one in Atoka and the other eight were in Tulsa.

“We have student achievement issues in Tulsa and we know that,” said Superintendent Keith Ballard. “We're not trying to hide them … we are working to overcome those issues.”

Tulsa Public Schools and Oklahoma City Public Schools are among the worst performing school districts in the state, both facing high poverty rates, community issues with gangs and violence, and high teacher and student mobility.

Both districts have always had the majority of schools on the needs improvement list, and some schools have been earmarked for special attention and grants from the federal government.

So the announcement that some are failing is not new news.

But Ballard is among a number of superintendents who think the grades don't accurately reflect the performance in his schools.

Under the new A to F grading system, schools literally earn a GPA which then correlates to the grade they receive. Below a 0.75 is an F on the scale.

Farris Public School in Atoka, a prekindergarten through eighth grade school, had a GPA of 3.01, technically landing the school squarely in the range for a B.

However, the school failed to test at least 90 percent of students in reading and math and automatically received an F.

In Oklahoma City, Emerson High School received an F with a 0.68 GPA.

But Tulsa has the three lowest performing schools, which received zeros, meaning the schools received Fs in each of the four subcategories.

Those schools are Central Junior High School, McLain Junior High School and the alternative school Tulsa MET/Lombard High School.

School improvement

There isn't any single reform under way in Tulsa that will turn the district around, or immediately improve student performance.

“We specifically are working to improve reading scores, math scores and to put in good programs,” Ballard said. “But we were doing all of that before this, and I have not found the state Department of Education to be particularly helpful in providing assistance to schools.”

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