After weeks of fighting among school administrators, state employees and the state Board of Education, parents are split about whether a new school evaluation system that was designed for them is worth all the trouble.
Grades were released Thursday for about 1,750 Oklahoma schools, each receiving a letter grade of A-F.
Michelle Nisbett sends her two children to Putnam City North High School, which received a B.
“There's always room for improvement,” Nisbett said, “but we're very happy with Putnam City North and the education and activities available to our children there.”
Nisbett is the president of the Putnam City Parent Teacher Association Council. She said she thinks the grades will be easier for parents to understand than an Academic Performance Index — or API — score but will still hold school officials accountable to their communities.
“It's easily interpreted,” she said. “I think for the most part, everybody understands it.”
Amy Nielson has three children, two of whom attend Bixby North Elementary School. The school received an A, a grade she said is appropriate.
But the grade doesn't tell her everything she wants to know about the school her children attend, she said.
Nielson said she thinks schools should be evaluated but that the new system tries to squeeze complicated information into one of five letter grades.
“There are so many factors, and I think they're trying to boil it down to something entirely too simple,” said Nielson, secretary of the Bixby Parent Teacher Association Council. “The grade's going to reflect the challenges (of a school) more than the desire and aptitude of the teachers.”
Mother Cheryl Hammons said she's ignoring the controversy. She's president of the Broken Arrow Parent Teacher Association Council.
Hammons has two children — one attends Broken Arrow High School and the other attends Haskell Middle School. The high school received a B, but the middle school got a C.
“I think the middle school is better than a C,” she said. “They really work hard and they are making improvements. Things are getting better every year. Those scores are rising — not a lot, but a little.”
Getting used to the A-F system will take time for everybody, said Angela Saulsberry, whose children attend Midwest City-Del City Schools. The grades replace the API, a 1,500-point scale that was used for many years.
“It's just so new now, I don't think parents fully understand it,” said Saulsberry, who is the president of the Mid-Del Parent Teacher Association Council. “API was around for a long time, and we got to know that.”
Saulsberry said she encourages parents to take the time to read the full school report cards and then add that information to what they already know about where their children go to school.
“Figure it out. Let it soak in,” she said. “Don't just jump the gun if you're child's school has a D or something.”