Oklahoma will take a greater hand in managing the seven worst-performing schools in the state, including three in the Oklahoma City area.
The list of seven, plus general information about what an improvement process might look like for these schools, was presented to the state Education Board at its meeting Thursday.
Karl Springer, superintendent for Oklahoma City Public Schools, said an initial concern that the state would venture to take over underperforming schools was softened by the announcement.
“They want to work with the school district in a collaborative type of way, maybe bringing some resources to the table, some expertise maybe, to help these schools more down the road,” Springer said. “(State schools Superintendent Janet Barresi) has indicated to me personally and in public that she is not interested in a takeover of any of our schools, and I believe her.”
Two of the seven C3 schools — Shidler Elementary School and Roosevelt Middle School — are within Springer's district. A third, Santa Fe South Middle School, is not in the district but is an Oklahoma City charter school.
A-F assessment scale
The board is expected to vote on the list and the plan, dubbed “C3” by the state Education Department, at its next meeting April 9.
The board also approved on Thursday a plan to adopt an A-F assessment scale that would categorize each of the state's school sites and districts based on a letter grade.
The C3 plan and the A-F accountability system are two of a series of sweeping reforms proposed to fulfill obligations laid out for the department when the federal government waived its participation in No Child Left Behind, Barresi said.
Barresi insisted neither of the programs indicate a plan by the state to take over any of its schools.
“Closure is not an option and has never been an option,” she said.
C3, which stands for College, Career and Citizen Ready, is the name Barresi's office has given to identify the seven schools, a subset of the 77 schools listed as “Priority Schools” earlier this spring.
Though the state will partner with each of the Priority schools, its partnership with the seven C3 schools will be much more intensive, she said.
Among possible initiatives for these schools is a conversion to charter schools, the pooling of Title I funding and increased financial support for literacy coaches and professional development.
Each of the schools has been asked to develop an advisory board made up of local school and community representatives, Barresi said. That group would then work alongside the state agency to develop and implement a new instructional model, which could range from personnel changes at the schools to the development of project-based or cross-curricular learning.
“It's more than just a teacher standing in front of the room lecturing. We know that that type of world is going away,” she said.
Beyond test scores
Each plan would be individualized according to the school's specific problem areas, she said. Programs developed at each school would be initiated beginning with the 2013-14 academic year.
The A-F assessment system was approved despite opposition by several board members who were concerned the proposed grading system was too strict and the appeals process too clunky.
Under the new system, grades will be awarded based on a formula that takes into consideration not only test scores but also learning gains and other school improvement factors, including graduation rates, performance and participation in college prep courses and attendance.
The rules were revised slightly in response to opposition by state school administrators at a public hearing last week, but debate Thursday revolved around the tier system for the grades.
Under the proposed and approved rules, 170 schools would qualify for an “A,” meaning they would currently score a 3.75 or higher under the formula, board member Amy Ford said.
Ford said board members who wanted to decrease that cutoff, thus bringing more schools into the “A” tier, underestimate the ability of a school and community to collaborate in improving instruction there.
“It offers transparency to a community of how well their school is truly doing,” Ford said.
Both the C3 program and the A-F assessment guidelines have been approved by the Oklahoma Legislature and Gov. Mary Fallin.
The A-F grades based on a school or district's current academic performance will be awarded beginning next fall.