Barresi said the grades are a reflection of increased academic rigor and improved standards designed to strengthen accountability.
“It does not mean our children know less than before or that teachers are doing a poor job,” she said. “The A-F report card just means that we are expecting more from them and we have every confidence that our schools and our students will rise to that challenge and they already are.”
Barresi recognized two schools in the Oklahoma City district — U.S. Grant High School and Pierce Elementary School — for overcoming the odds to make dramatic academic improvement.
Grant, traditionally a poor-performing school, missed an A by a point, she said. And Pierce, where nearly 90 percent of student test-takers are eligible for free- or reduced-price meals, received a B- after 91 percent of students passed math and nearly 85 percent of students were proficient in reading.
Two other schools, Belle Isle Enterprise Middle School and Classen School of Advanced Studies, received grades of A+.
How were schools graded?
Schools received scores based on a 100-point index that translates into a letter grade. The scores consist of two categories, including student performance on state-mandated standardized tests (50 percent) and student growth (25 percent for overall student growth and 25 percent for growth among some low-performing students).
Schools can earn up to 10 bonus points for factors including attendance, dropout rate, high school graduation rate and advanced coursework.
The most recent calculation was passed this spring by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin.
Critics of the grading system said it doesn't recognize the work that teachers and principals are doing to increase student achievement.
Among the schools making gains was Wilson Arts Integration Elementary School in northwest Oklahoma City, which improved from a B- to an A-. Wilson was the only elementary school to receive an A grade.
Principal Kirk Wilson said a key to the school's improvement was improving attendance, which it did by offering incentives and recognition.
The school received 10 bonus points that made the difference between an A and a B.
“Wilson is blessed with a huge amount of community and parent involvement, and we could not do the things that we do without their support,” Principal Kirk Wilson said. “I'm proud of teachers and staff. I knew that we had worked really hard last year with all of our kids.”
Students affected by a two-day testing interruption in April were not included in the calculations.