The Norman Transcript

October 5, 2012

Superintendents: System is flawed

By Patty Miller
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Superintendents representing 79 public school districts and an estimated 300,000 Oklahoma children from across the state shared their concerns Thursday about the state’s A-F School Grading System at the Oklahoma School Board Association offices on North Lincoln.

The Oklahoma State Department of Education will release the grades for all 1,761 public schools in the state Monday, but superintendents from across the state say the state’s grading method is “deeply flawed.”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi has touted the new A-F Report Cards as “transparent” and “easily communicated to the public.” The superintendents contend the new system may do more to misrepresent than inform parents and residents appropriately.

Edmond’s Superintendent David Goin joined a panel of five superintendents who spoke representing the superintendents present as well as those unable to attend the press conference. Other panel members included Keith Ballard, superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools, Joe Siano, superintendent of Norman Public Schools, Cathy Burden, superintendent of Tulsa Union Public Schools, and Karl Springer, superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools.

All of the superintendents stated they were strong supporters of evaluating the education system and supported the bill passed by the legislature in 2011, but they did not believe the system adopted by the state Department of Education would be effective because they termed it a flawed system of evaluation.

Officials stated a 10-page technical guide and a 28-page report card guide with 48 calculation tables are necessary to understand how a school receives a grade.

“School districts are not opposed to accountability or improved communication on school performance,” Ballard said. “We have demonstrated accountability for student achievement for over a decade under No Child Left Behind. We were hopeful that the new A-F Grading System would be an improvement over the previous system. In its current form, however, the new system is highly discriminatory and is aimed at holding schools down. The intent is to embarrass schools, and that is unacceptable. ”

Ballard went on to say the superintendents want a clear process that shows accurately what the students have achieved.

On Monday, the State Department of Education is expected to publicly release A-F Report Cards for all 1,761 schools in the state. Monday marks the first time schools will receive a letter grade for their performance. 

One concern expressed by the superintendents was that schools will not be graded on the same 4.0 scale that is used for grading students. For students, 90 percent or better earns an A grade, and a 3.6 grade point average on a 4.0 scale is an A average. But under the state’s new grading system, a school needs a 3.75 GPA, or 93.75, to be deemed an “A” school, officials said. 

“We are strong supporters of holding schools accountable for student instruction. However, this new system devised by the OSDE in its current configuration will get a failing grade in my community for achieving its purported goal: a higher degree of clarity for parents and the general public about local schools’ performance,” Siano said.

Springer said a list of questions had been sent to the SDE, but the superintendents did not believe they had received clear answers.

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