Of the 10 schools that received F's in the entire state one was in Oklahoma City, one in Atoka and the other eight were in Tulsa.
“We have student achievement issues in Tulsa and we know that,” said Superintendent Keith Ballard. “We're not trying to hide them … we are working to overcome those issues.”
Tulsa Public Schools and Oklahoma City Public Schools are among the worst performing school districts in the state, both facing high poverty rates, community issues with gangs and violence, and high teacher and student mobility.
Both districts have always had the majority of schools on the needs improvement list, and some schools have been earmarked for special attention and grants from the federal government.
So the announcement that some are failing is not new news.
But Ballard is among a number of superintendents who think the grades don't accurately reflect the performance in his schools.
Under the new A to F grading system, schools literally earn a GPA which then correlates to the grade they receive. Below a 0.75 is an F on the scale.
Farris Public School in Atoka, a prekindergarten through eighth grade school, had a GPA of 3.01, technically landing the school squarely in the range for a B.
However, the school failed to test at least 90 percent of students in reading and math and automatically received an F.
In Oklahoma City, Emerson High School received an F with a 0.68 GPA.
But Tulsa has the three lowest performing schools, which received zeros, meaning the schools received Fs in each of the four subcategories.
Those schools are Central Junior High School, McLain Junior High School and the alternative school Tulsa MET/Lombard High School.
There isn't any single reform under way in Tulsa that will turn the district around, or immediately improve student performance.
“We specifically are working to improve reading scores, math scores and to put in good programs,” Ballard said. “But we were doing all of that before this, and I have not found the state Department of Education to be particularly helpful in providing assistance to schools.”
The district has undergone drastic changes over the years. Project Schoolhouse closed more than 13 schools throughout the district, and the district is ahead of the curve in rating teachers using a growth model directly linked to student performance.
Every student in Tulsa Public Schools now wears a uniform. The district has replaced ineffective teachers and principals.
But among the newest reforms is an effort to develop an academic achievement zone centered on a number of underperforming schools.
The achievement zone doesn't focus on schools labeled as failing by the letter grades, but rather on the scores the schools earn for compliance with the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The schools have been labeled as priority schools, needing greater intervention.
“We wanted to have a response to intervention model,” said Verna Ruffin, assistant superintendent for the academic achievement zone. “We respond to the entire child, whether it's a social, emotional or academic need.”
The zone is just in its beginning stages, but a team of employees with Tulsa Public Schools has already begun working with the schools in the McLain High School feeder pattern.
The feeder pattern's junior high school received an F, and McLain High School for Science and Technology received a C.
The high school received an F based on student performance on standardized tests, but received an A for overall student growth and a B for whole school performance indicators, such as graduation rate and advanced coursework available to students.
Other schools that received Fs were Tulsa MET/Lombard High School, and TRACE Academy and Tulsa MET middle schools. Additionally, Greeley and Mark Twain elementary schools and Hale Junior High School received Fs.