The state Board of Education approved the new A-F evaluation for schools statewide at a meeting Thursday and took the opportunity to blame educators for the poor status of public education in Oklahoma.
The formula used to devise the grades has come under fire from many school district superintendents, who questioned the accuracy of the calculations. Board members responded by reprimanding superintendents and other educators attending the meeting Thursday morning.
“When we get to the position to where we're being attacked because we're somehow pawns in the political system, that's offensive to me — maybe insulting,” said retired Gen. Lee Baxter, a board member. “We ain't (ranked) 47th (nationally) because of me. We're not 47th because of this board. You were 47th when I got here.”
Board members directly addressed the superintendents and educators who packed the board room and hallways at the state Education Department building.
“What are you doing to improve your schools?” board member Bill Shdeed asked the audience. “It takes a lot of money to keep you all up. What are you doing to help? ... It's got to change.”
Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Karl Springer issued a brief statement after the grades were released.
“We appreciate the diligence of the Oklahoma State Board of Education, but we are deeply disappointed in the calculation,” Springer said.
“The current calculation does not adequately reflect the growth average of all students.”
About the grades
The new evaluation system gives about 1,750 Oklahoma schools a letter grade of A-F. Nine schools received an F and 160 received an A.
Of 80 schools in Oklahoma City Public Schools, only three received a grade of A: Belle Isle Enterprise Middle School, Classen School of Advanced Studies and Pierce Elementary School.
One school, Emerson Alternative Education High School, received a grade of F; 11 school scored a B; 27 received a C; and 38 scored a D.
Board member Bill Price said he has no patience for those who attack the messenger and the system instead of the problem.
“Part of any plan is recognizing what the problem is and recognizing there is a problem,” Price said.
“All these flunking schools under (the previous system), nobody seemed to recognize.”
Eight of the nine schools receiving Fs are part of Tulsa Public Schools. Five of those are middle or junior high schools.
Vote came after delay
After a two-week delay and months of controversy, the board voted unanimously, with almost no discussion Thursday, to release the grades.
The grades were posted on the state Education Department website, which was overwhelmed with users and crashed briefly.
The board voted Thursday to use the original formula proposed by state Education Department employees.
Board members spent the past two weeks reviewing an alterative formula proposed by an ad hoc group of more than 300 superintendents.
The proposal was too lenient, board member Brian Hayden said.
“If we make it to where the hurdle is so easy to get over, then what are we really accomplishing?” Hayden said.
About a dozen educators and parents spoke about the formula before the vote.
Tulsa Union Superintendent Cathy Burden said the entire process is wrapped in a political fog.
“Now you are being expected to, as a matter of fact, approve that original (formula) version anyway, apparently because the more accurate calculation made schools look too good,” Burden said to the board.
“It's obvious to everyone that this is about politics and not good policy.”