State education officials are delaying the release of A-F school report cards, but the griping about the state-required exercise has already begun.
“If you're going to come out with this new grading system than come out with a new grading system,” Oklahoma City School Board member Justin Ellis said Friday. “That's one of the reasons I came on board six months ago. I didn't think a D was good enough for our city and now it looks like we have quite a few F's.”
While school district officials already know the grades for their schools, this information hasn't been released publicly.
“In an abundance of caution, the state Department of Education is going to take additional time to guarantee absolute, 100 percent accuracy of the grades,” state Schools Superintendent Janet Barresi said. “To say this has been frustrating is putting it mildly. The A-F report cards are too critical a tool for parents and communities to accept anything less than quality.”
Letter grades for every public school in Oklahoma were set to be presented to the state Board of Education for certification Tuesday, but problems with calculations delayed the release until sometime next month. The report cards are intended to measure how well schools are teaching their students, but they've been a lightning rod for criticism by educators.
“We don't put much stock in the A-F grades because they don't represent enough of what goes on in a school house to paint an accurate picture of how good a school is or isn't,” said Steven Crawford, executive director Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration. “We don't want to sound like accountability is not the issue here, but we don't believe it's very reliable, useful or valid.”
On Thursday, Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard sent a letter home to the parents of roughly 40,000 students slamming the state Education Department for its handling of grade card calculations. He criticized the department for “dysfunction and ineptitude” in the process.
On Oct. 16, the state Department of Education posted the newest grade cards for public schools statewide to a secure website for school administrators to review. But school administrators all over the state reported finding that their school grades had been changed four, five and even six times over the first two days because of calculation errors by state education officials.
On Oct. 18, Barresi issued an apology to educators for “delay and confusion.”
Oklahoma City School District officials reported Friday that school grades have changed six times during the review period, which ends Monday.
Last year, the district got an overall grade of D.
“What I don't understand with them is why they send out the grade and it is continuously changed. Either tell us what it is or what it isn't,” Ellis said. “We're prepared to make the changes to our academics, but give us the grade.”
Fellow Oklahoma City School Board member Bob Hammack said the report cards are unfair because they don't take socioeconomic factors into consideration.
“It's weighted heavily in the favor of the suburban schools at the cost of urban and rural schools,” Hammack said. “You tell me how a kid who didn't have dinner is going to do on that test.”
Approximately 90 percent of 45,631 students who attend Oklahoma City Public Schools, the state's largest school district, receive free or reduced-price meals.
Reports criticize grading system
According to an analysis by University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University researchers released earlier this month, Oklahoma's A-F school grading system masks the performance of poor and minority students, and in turn, may violate federal requirements for the state's waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act.
The authors also claim that the most recent attempt to improve the school grading system by the Oklahoma Legislature failed to address the most serious problems with it.
“When letter grades were put to the test with actual student achievement data, it turns out that they do more to hide achievement differences than provide a clear understanding of school effectiveness,” researchers wrote.
The annual report cards, which debuted in 2012, assign a single letter grade between A-F to every public school in the state.
They replaced Oklahoma's previous school accountability system, which gauged schools with an Academic Performance Index score of 0-1,500.
In an abundance of caution, the state Department of Education is going to take additional time to guarantee absolute, 100 percent accuracy of the grades. To say this has been frustrating is putting it mildly. The A-F report cards are too critical a tool for parents and communities to accept anything less than quality.”
State schools superintendent