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Oklahoma educators give new school grading system poor marks at state hearing

Advocates and education officials went to the state Education Department on Monday to comment about the proposed grading system that would give all Oklahoma public schools an A through F grade.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL Published: March 20, 2012

Educators and advocates from throughout the state called a new system to grade school districts punitive, unfair and vague at a public hearing Tuesday morning.

“Rural, urban and suburban schools are all different, yet you want to judge them all the same,” said Anna King, president of the Oklahoma PTA. “I'm concerned about this, and we are going to use a loud voice from this day forth. In the state of Oklahoma, our kids deserve the best. Is this the way to get it? No.”

Nearly 75 superintendents, teachers and parents asked questions and made comments to the state Education Department's legal team at a hearing about the new school improvement and accountability system.

Superintendent Janet Barresi did not attend the hearing because she had a meeting about teacher workshops, a spokesman said.

A-F system replaces

No Child Left Behind

The system would give each school and district a grade of A-F.

The A-F system replaces the federal requirements of No Child Left Behind, which Oklahoma no longer has to follow.

It was one of 10 states to receive a waiver from the federal act last month.

The board will vote on the rules at its meeting March 29.

If approved, the rules will need to be approved by the state Senate, House and governor.

About 4 percent of schools would earn an A and about 1 percent would receive an F this year, according state Department of Education calculations. The other 95 percent of schools would be graded B, C or D.

The system does not give very many schools a chance to earn an A, said Paul Hurst, superintendent of Putnam City Schools.

“Should an A not correspond more closely to what people think an A is?” he asked.

Would system hurt businesses?

The quality of schools affects quality of life and business development, said Chris Deal, president and CEO of the Duncan Chamber of Commerce. A town with one school district labeled with a D or F might deter companies looking to open shop.

“What affect will this have to our ability to attract business to Duncan and Oklahoma?” Deal asked.

“Workforce development is one of the building blocks of economic development, and education is the cornerstone.”

The new grading system should not affect business development because the information is already available to the public, said Damon Gardenhire, a spokesman for the state Education Department.

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