Letter grades for more than 500 school districts throughout the state were released Wednesday evening by the state Education Department as part of a new evaluation system that assigns A-F grades to Oklahoma schools and districts.
Education leaders expressed similar concerns about the overall district grades this week as they did earlier this fall when grades were assigned to individual schools.
“When you try to boil everything down to one letter grade, it misses so many of the nuances, both strengthens and weaknesses,” Tulsa Union Superintendent Kathy Burden said.
Tulsa Union received a B, a grade Burden said she is “not dissatisfied with.” While data is helpful to educators and parents, overarching information like a letter grade doesn't give parents the information most are looking for: how their kids are doing in school.
“This is an attempt to try to qualify something that is very, very complicated and has a lot of variables to consider,” Burden said. “Therefore, it tends to generalize about things and may or may not give a proper reflection about an individual family's experience at a school or a school district.”
Twenty-three school districts received A grades: Adair, Amber-Pocasset, Arapaho-Butler, Bethany, Big Pasture, Bishop, Canadian, Central High, Chisholm, Cottonwood, Deer Creek, Edmond, Kingfisher, McCord, Mulhall-Orlando, Newcastle, Pioneer, Plainview, Reydon, Ripley, Robin Hill, Sequoyah and Waynoka.
Two districts get failing grades
Two districts received F grades: Dustin in Hughes County and Farris in Atoka County.
The state's two largest school districts — Oklahoma City and Tulsa — both received D's.
“It is disappointing,” Superintendent Karl Springer said. “ ... No one can be happy with a D. We're not.”
But the grade doesn't reflect progress made in areas like state-mandated end-of-instruction exams for high school students, Springer said. Elementary and middle school students are making progress as well, he said.
Grades not a surprise
There's a lot of work yet to be done, Oklahoma City Assistant Superintendent Sandra Park said, and teachers and staff members know that. The low grade isn't much of a surprise.
“Our teachers are realistic about the challenges our families face,” Park said.
After seeing the individual school grades earlier this fall, the C that Putnam City received wasn't a surprise, district spokesman Steve Lindley said. But it's still helpful.
“It's a source of information about what we need to do to improve achievement and school performance,” Lindley said. “ ... Every year we look at data and see where do we need to improve, where can we get better, what can we put in place?”
Edmond Public Schools received an A, and the news was affirming for students, staff and the community, Superintendent David Goin said.
“Overall the district report card paints a very bright picture of the quality of learning taking place here for our Edmond children,” he said.
However, he said the formula used to calculate the grade is flawed.
For example, for a district to receive an A in the category of advanced level coursework, 90 percent of students must participate.
“I'm all for the bar being set at a high level,” Goin said, “but it also needs to be realistic.”
The data used to calculate the grade can be helpful and used to identify areas for improvement, said Shelly Hickman, spokeswoman for Norman Public Schools. Norman received a B.
“We don't question the value and the integrity of the data itself,” Hickman. “It's the formula. Our concerns haven't changed.”