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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

“All of this information about how a school's performing is available now,” Gardenhire said.

“It's just that the metrics are somewhat confusing for an average citizen or parent now. ... Putting it into a clear-cut format doesn't change the information. It just makes it more available.”

Will rules scare

away teachers?

Labeling a school with a grade of D or F could drive away good teachers, said Alicia Priest, vice president of Oklahoma Educators Association.

The new system may continue the exodus of good teachers to other states in the region, said Carolyn Gray, director of personnel for Oklahoma City Public Schools.

Gardenhire said the system would rally surrounding communities, not drive people away.

“Communities rally around schools to find ways of improving them,” Gardenhire said.

“If a school receives a somewhat lower grade, the pattern that we've heard about from other states is that parents and citizens step forward.”

The grading system holds school officials accountable for things that are out of their control, Dale Superintendent Charles Dickinson said.

For example, Dale Public Schools offers five Advanced Placement classes, but Dickinson said the district would have to double that number to earn an A rating.

Adding enough new staff members to do so isn't financially possible, he said.

“We simply don't have the financial capability of doing that,” Dickinson said.

“Therefore, through no fault of our own, we have no chance at success.”

Another factor is parent and community involvement.

This is unfair for schools in poor areas, where parents have no transportation or work multiple jobs, said Sue Kuntze, assistant superintendent of elementary education for Putnam City Schools.

The volunteering rule is vague at best, said Terry Fraley, executive director of federal programs for Oklahoma City Public Schools.

“How many parent volunteers do schools need to have before additional points are awarded?” Fraley asked.

Questions left unanswered

Several speakers said the rules were not detailed enough about how certain factors would be judged. One of the more hotly discussed issues was rewarding schools that encourage students to take courses above their grade levels.

“What constitutes an upper-level class for an elementary student? What constitutes an upper-level class for a middle school student? That still has not been defined,” said Kevin Burr, associate superintendent for secondary schools for Tulsa Public Schools.

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