The Norman Transcript

April 25, 2013

Current state grade system flunks

Transcript Staff
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The full Senate voted to improve and reform Oklahoma’s A-F grades for public schools Tuesday following lengthy statewide controversy regarding the system’s accuracy and fairness. 

Sen. Clark Jolley, the original author of the A-F legislation, HB 1658, said the idea was to help parents more easily understand how their children’s schools were doing.

Jolley, and co-author Rep. Lee Denney, along with other lawmakers and representatives from the governor’s office, formed a working group to examine concerns raised by superintendents, educators and other stakeholders to ultimately determine what modifications were necessary.

“We did not want to change the system simply to get a better result for those school districts in our hometowns — our goal is to make sure the formula for calculating the grades is an accurate picture of how schools are doing academically,” said Jolley, R-Edmond.

“The changes we’ve approved will represent a better reflection of

academic performance, while also making the grades easier to calculate and easier for everyone to understand.”

The State Department posted proposed changes to the A-F system in early March, opening the floor for public comment and garnering continued criticism from educators across the state.

The criticism namely pertains to the state’s apparent disregard for a nationally peer-reviewed research paper from the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University, deeming the A-F system unsalvageable.

“I believe the changes are rather minor. Some modifications 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,” Norman Superintendent Joe Siano said in March.

Changes approved by the Senate include adding a plus or minus to schools’ letter grades, tabulating grades on a 90-100 scale and modifying the calculation of AP enrollment into a school’s grade.

“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.”

HB 1658 authors are more confident in the system’s functionality and pending improvements.

“Parents can look at their children’s report card and understand immediately what those grades mean,” said Denney, R-Cushing. “Our goal is to bring that same clarity to the A through F grades for Oklahoma schools.”

HB 1658 now returns to the House for consideration of Senate amendments.

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.

For a full narrative of the proposed changes, visit the State Department of Education’s website at ok.gov/sde and click on “Proposed Administrative Rules” on the front page.

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