Gov. Mary Fallin signs rules implementing A-F grading system for public schools

An Oklahoma legislative committee started the process to disapprove the rules. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate would have to disapprove a measure to scuttle the A-F grading system rules.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: May 3, 2012
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Gov. Mary Fallin approved rules Wednesday for an A-F grading system for public schools.

At nearly the same time, a House committee passed a measure seeking disapproval of the rules developed by the state Education Department to implement the scoring system.

The rules are in effect and will be used unless the House of Representatives and the Senate both pass House Joint Resolution 1125, which calls for disapproving them.

The House Administrative Rules and Government Oversight Committee voted 9-1 to pass HJR 1125, which now is headed for the full House for possible consideration. Several school officials complained to committee members that the rules are confusing and unfair, and were developed without enough feedback from public school officials.

The rules were adopted by the state Board of Education in March and were based on House Bill 1456, which was passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed last year by the GOP governor.

Damon Gardenhire, spokesman for state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi, said HB 1456 is the law and if lawmakers would decide to disapprove the Education Department's rules the agency still would undertake a grading system.

“We have a law to enforce,” he said. “I would say the vast majority of parents and citizens across this state support this reform.”

Fallin said the law, as well as the rules, are part of a comprehensive effort to improve performance and accountability measures at public schools.

“Nothing is more important to the future of this state than improving our schools,” Fallin said. “Job growth and prosperity are directly linked to work force quality and educational achievement. All of those things require high-quality educational institutions at every level.

“To ensure that we are providing quality schools that are serving our children well and to identify those instances where we are not, the state is establishing an A-F grading system to measure school performance,” she said.

Barresi said the rules will increase transparency and accountability in education.

“The A-F reform has strong support among parents and the general public,” Barresi said. “The will of the people was carried out last year when legislators passed the reform and it was signed into law.”

It's unclear when the resolution disapproving the rules would be heard on the House floor. House Republicans met in a closed caucus meeting for a couple hours after the committee's vote. It was unknown if they discussed the committee's action.

John Estus, spokesman for House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, said a decision hasn't been made.

“Input is still being gathered and evaluated,” Estus said.

HB 1456 passed last year mostly along party lines, with Republicans supporting it. The Senate passed it 31-14, and the House approved it 59-31. Backers said it was meant to give parents a more easily understandable ratings system for schools than the API system, which rates schools on a 90-1500 scale.

Reworking of rules is sought

Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, said he filed HJR 1125 because under the new grading system schools are evaluated based on performance in various factors: