EDMOND — Vicki Merriott said she doesn't want to play the blame game.
When A-F grades were released last month in a statewide school evaluation based on student performance, student growth and campus performance, Merriott said, she was disappointed but not surprised by the C grade given to Ida Freeman Elementary school.
Merriott taught fifth-grade science, social studies and writing for 23 years at the Edmond Public Schools campus. She was finishing her final year before retiring in the spring when a family emergency forced her to miss the last quarter of school, including the two weeks leading up to testing.
Merriott's mother had injured herself in a fall, so she rushed to her home in Claremore to care for her.
“I didn't know what I was going to do and how long I would be gone,” she said. “But my mom is 87 and lives alone. I had to go.”
Merriott said she had the support of her school to take care of her mother, and the substitute teacher who took over her classes was more than capable.
When grades were released in October and Ida Freeman was the only school in the district to score below a B, Superintendent David Goin and Ida Freeman Principal Brenda McDonald pointed to the long-term absence of a social studies teacher as a possible factor in the low grades, which included an F in social studies. They did not mention Merriott by name.
Merriott and former Ida Freeman teacher Eileen McGinnis, who also retired in the spring, think the scores were low because the district had instructed teachers to consider social studies as an extra reading lesson.
“The curriculum I was told to use was not the social studies curriculum,” Merriott said. “I was told to supplement for reading because reading was where we needed improvement and I was told to teach science and social studies through reading.”
McGinnis said she missed time from school because of an appendectomy, and was away nearly a month before last year's testing.
McGinnis said in the past the district placed more emphasis on reading and math lessons, and social studies was often used as an extra reading lesson with teachers using historical stories to test reading comprehension.
“I don't think we would have been given that curriculum if they had thought it would have counted,” McGinnis said. “If they had asked us if we thought it would've passed the test, we would've said no.”
Lynne Rowley, director of elementary education for Edmond Public Schools, said schools are now being told to make sure they are teaching every subject.
“One of the things that (the grades) brought to our attention is the need to make sure we teach all of the subject areas even though we have our attention on the fundamentals like reading and math,” Rowley said. “Reading and math are building blocks for future learning and, at the elementary level, we need to make sure we have solid building blocks, but that our focus isn't too narrow.”
Merriott said even though she wasn't named specifically, she wanted her name cleared because it put a lot of guilt on her mother.
“My mom saw those comments and was very upset,” she said. “We enjoyed our years at Ida Freeman — our last year was really tough but we did truly enjoy it. But I just feel like I'm not taking the blame because I don't think it should be on me.”