The Norman Transcript

March 1, 2013

A-F changes up for public comment

By Caitlin Schudalla
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The State Department of Education announced recently that it is seeking public comment on its proposed changes to the controversial A-F school report card system.

The comment period began Friday and will conclude at 4:30 p.m. Monday, March 25. Written comments may be sent to: Oklahoma State Department of Education, Room 1-18, Hodge Building, 2500 N. Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City, OK  73105, or submitted to rules@sde.ok.gov.

Members of the public also may provide comments in person during a public forum from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. March 25 in Room 1-20 at the State Department of Education.

The proposed changes for comment are:

· Schools given credit for every advanced class a student takes. If a student is enrolled in three advanced classes, the school receives three credits where it previously would receive one.

· AP/IB no longer the only advanced coursework counted. The proposed change would include AP, IB, Advanced International Certificate of Education, concurrent enrollment and industry certification courses.

· School climate survey no longer a bonus component. Intended to measure the level of support within the school/community through programs and administration, the survey would be eliminated under the proposed change.

· Modification to the measurement of “bottom quartile.” Originally, the rule measured the growth of students scoring “unsatisfactory” or “limited knowledge” on state mandated tests. If a school’s population of students with this score was less than 25 percent of its overall student body, the school’s grade would suffer (Roosevelt). Now the system will measure the true 25 percent of lowest-scoring students

In a release from the State Department, State Superintendent Janet Barresi said she was pleased with the changes and anticipated further modifications through the public comment and legislative sessions.

“The department is committed to engaging education stakeholders in conversations that result in improving the system now and in the coming years,” Barresi said.

The State Department reported Thursday that they had received an estimated 25 comments in the six days since the proposed changes were posted.

Norman Superintendent Joe Siano said that though the changes’ results may be positive, they are ultimately very minor and fail to address a bigger problem.

“I believe the changes are rather minor. Specifically regarding the quartile calculation, that will be a positive change, but more important is a pending response from the state superintendent on the research paper which superintendents across the state have submitted,” Siano said.

The said research — a nationally peer-reviewed collaborative effort between the University of Oklahoma’s Center for Education Policy and Oklahoma State University’s Center for Educational Research and Evaluation — states that more foundational issues than the proposed changes are contributing to the system’s flawed nature.

“All three components (student achievement, student growth and school performance) of the A-F system have statistical limitations that jeopardize their validity, reliability and usefulness,” the report says. “Moreover, combining flawed indicators creates a misleading measure in the form of a single grade for each school.”

In spite of both Siano and the report’s emphasis that change is needed and welcome, both indicate that the proposed system changes will barely address much deeper, more inherent flaws.

“The report states that this is not a system that can be merely tweaked. It has no validity, and tweaking it won’t give it validity,” Siano said. “(Educators) are asking the state department to go back to the drawing board and re-evaluate the entire system.”

The full report by the OU/OSU Centers can be viewed through the Cooperative Council Oklahoma School Administration website at www.ccosa.org under “Current Highlights” on the homepage.

A full narrative of the proposed changes to the A-F Report Card rules as well, as other changes to other rules, can be found by visiting the Oklahoma Register at www.oar.state.ok.us or by going through the State Department of Education’s website at www.ok.gov/sde and clicking on “Proposed Administrative Rules” on the front page.

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