The Norman Transcript

November 8, 2013

New report cards do not make the grade

The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Oklahoma’s new A-F report cards for public schools were unveiled Wednesday to much praise from some elected officials and scorn from school leaders across the state.

The report cards have been touted by State Superintendent Janet Barresi and Gov. Mary Fallin as a way for parents to gauge how their children’s schools are performing. While the report cards give some schools well-deserved bragging rights, we don’t think they do much to help parents and taxpayers evaluate their schools, and they are not particularly helpful to schools in showing the path toward improvement.

The grades actually could be harmful, once posted online and incorporated into various real estate websites, if the grades are given unwarranted credibility and used by people moving into an area to make home-buying or school-attendance decisions.

We also aren’t happy with the process leading up to the report cards’ unveiling.

Local school officials received their results two weeks ago, and as Enid Superintendent Shawn Hime pointed out, Enid Public Schools’ grades changed 10 times. That many changes don’t instill much confidence in the system. Neither does a report from University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University researchers that shows the grading formula used is flawed.

On top of those problems, there was the spectacle Wednesday when the report cards were unveiled on the Oklahoma State Department of Education website. Districtwide results and results for individual school sites were released. Then, later in the day, the districtwide results were pulled down, when Education Department officials admitted they were mistakenly released.

We acknowledge the grades given to schools do offer some enlightenment, such as pointing out a need to work more on science and reading, for example. However, that’s really not anything new. No one — from educactors, to parents, to politicians — is disputing there is room for improvement in our education system.

The report cards are the pride and joy of elected officials — namely Barresi and Fallin — eager to brag about an accomplishment that makes school districts improve education quality and improve accountability to taxpayers. Unfortunately, these controversy-plagued report cards do neither.

The best outcome of the report cards is to further the discussion about education quality and efficiency, which can be beneficial.

So, congratulations to those schools that scored well. Take pride in the many individual elements that lead to success.

But educators, parents and taxpayers alike would be wise to heed the paraphrased advice of Chisholm Superintendent Roydon Tilley, whose high school scored 103 on the 100-point scale: The report card system has some flaws, but use it as yet another tool in the discussion on improving education.

— Enid News and Eagle

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