The Norman Transcript

December 5, 2013

Strive to improve schools


The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:

An editorial in the Nov. 11 Norman Transcript criticized the A-F school report cards administered by the Oklahoma Department of Education, claiming that a study by University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University researchers showed that the grading system “seems to value affluence and devalue diversity.”

I take exception with that claim. The study (essentially a follow-up to an earlier one that had been funded by two education-establishment organizations with a stake in the grades) arrived at some curious conclusions.

The researchers, who based their findings on a meager 3 percent of graded schools, found that 70 percent of achievement in the classroom is due to factors beyond a school’s control.

There are, of course, stark realities that impact students. Far too many Oklahoma children live in poverty and endure the litany of hardships that go with it. That doesn’t mean schools can or should give up on those kids.

Education is often a way out of poverty. The grading system is about expectations and academic rigor — traits every bit as important in a school serving poor students as those in affluent suburbs.

The A-F grading system is not designed to embarrass anyone. Rather, it is a tool to bring transparency and accountability to a public education system in which, frankly, many Oklahomans have lost faith.

A-F is akin to a visit to the doctor. Not knowing you have a health problem does not make that ailment go away. If you know about it, however, you can treat it and take steps to lead a healthier life.

So it is with A-F. Discrediting its review does no good. Rather, we need to look at the results and strive to improve opportunities for our children.

For children in Norman Public Schools, those results were very good.

Five schools in the district received an A and 10 earned a B. Not a single school in the district received an F.

PHIL BACHARACH

Director of communication, Oklahoma State Department of Education

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