NORMAN — With a public debut set for Monday, the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s controversial new A-F school evaluation system has garnered passionate criticism from educators and lawmakers across the state.
Though critics cite multiple factors in questioning the system’s fairness, Norman Public Schools superintendent Joe Siano said the district will not see any big surprises in the grades each school site receives next week.
“Overall our performance is still strong, and that’s clear in the fact that what would be considered ‘average’ students and ‘high challenge’ students are still at 83 to 84 percent proficiency,” Siano said.
Though Siano and the Norman Board of Education have raised many concerns with the new grading system, Siano emphasized that the system is ultimately another piece of data and a welcome avenue for identifying each school’s strengths and weaknesses.
“We embrace accountability and are glad these systems are in place, we’ll use the data from this system the same way we used the API (Academic Performance Index) to make decisions on resources, programs and areas of gaps and acceleration,” Siano said. “We have students who are excelling and students who have gaps, just like we’ve always had and will continue to address.”
The A-F grading system was approved by the legistlature in 2011, and Norman board members have been anticipating the conclusion of the grading process with substantial concern.
“The system’s GPA makes no sense to me — I’ve never seen a grading system like this. It gets the GPA and the letter grade backward. It would be like me changing my standards for an A halfway through the semester because too many of my students were doing well,” said board member Julie Raadschelders in May.
Indeed, according to Siano, two schools in the Norman district which are high-performing will receive a B, due largely to the fact that an A grade requires a minimum 3.5 GPA, or a 93-100.