Oklahoma Education Board waits to release controversial A-F school grades

The Oklahoma Education Department planned to release grades for schools throughout the state Monday, but the state Board of Education quashed those plans. The new evaluation system gives nearly 1,750 school sites in the state a letter grade of A through F.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL ccoppernoll@opubco.com Modified: October 8, 2012 at 9:25 pm •  Published: October 8, 2012

The state Board of Education voted unanimously Monday morning to delay the release of the much-anticipated A-F letter grades assigned to nearly 1,750 schools statewide.

The board asked the state Education Department to re-evaluate the grades after pleas from a coalition of about 260 Oklahoma superintendents who said the evaluation system was skewed.

“Are we all wrong?” Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard asked. “We're not all wrong. We're not opposed to A-F. We're opposed to the calculations.”

The board is scheduled to revisit the issue at its regular meeting Oct. 25.

Educators, administrators and parents packed the board room during the special meeting Monday, and attendees stood outside in the halls.

More than a dozen people representing districts statewide signed up to address the board. Public comments about the issue lasted for nearly an hour with all speakers asking the board to delay the grade release.

Wendy Hardwick, a parent from Broken Arrow, asked the board to take time to reconsider the formula.

“I'm supportive of the A-F system itself but want to be sure the grades are fair and accurate,” Hardwick said. “ ... They're representative of our schools, our students and our parents. I request a delay until these concerns have been addressed.”

Formula debated

Though many concerns have been discussed, school officials and the state Board of Education zeroed in on one: the word “average.”

“We all know how to calculate an average, but this state formula has misrepresented the term,” said Sherri Fair, director of student data and assessment for Tulsa Union Public Schools. “ ... This correction will more accurately portray the information we want to provide to parents and stakeholders.”

State employees determine a school's grade by calculating three factors: student achievement, whole-school performance and student growth.

To determine growth, student progress is measured against the statewide average of only students who passed state tests and showed positive gains from one year to the next. The superintendent coalition has said this calculation is distorted because it isn't a true average of all students.

For example, some students are unable to earn points for their school grade because they score “unsatisfactory” or “limited knowledge” on state tests, even if they make dramatic progress from one year to the next.



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