BY World's Editorials Writers
Saturday, July 28, 2012
7/28/12 at 4:58 AM
Tulsa Public Schools' Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test results for 2011-12 dipped to the lowest in years. Among the more troubling results: Only 42 percent of fourth graders scored satisfactorily in reading; only 48 percent of third graders and 46 percent of eighth graders scored satisfactorily in math.
Unfortunately, these are the test scores that will be used in the state's new punitive grading system that will assign A through F letter grades for local schools and districts.
The results, which were detailed in a front-page story in Thursday's Tulsa World, are especially disheartening because many schools across the state, including most suburban schools in the Tulsa area, showed some progress in test scores.
The test scores are unacceptable, and Tulsa school officials know that they are unacceptable. To their credit, Superintendent Keith Ballard and his staff already are doing everything they can to put the best possible principals and teachers in the low-performing schools and to spend as much of the district's dwindling financial resources on programs aimed at strengthening academic performance from kindergarten up. Those efforts simply have not yet produced the desired results, at least in this year's one-day snapshot of Tulsa's elementary school academics.
Anyone who would condemn TPS as a failure, based on these test results, ought to understand some of the factors that work against the district. This is our assessment, by the way, not Ballard's or his staff's; they are not making any excuses.
It can't help TPS' test scores that the district averages include special education and non English-speaking students. It can't help that the Legislature and state Department of Education have not come through with promised funding for remedial programs. It can't help that class sizes are ballooning as state funds to the district are being cut or diverted to other purposes such as vouchers, charter schools and virtual schools.
Finally there is this: TPS has an extremely high number of students - about 90 percent - who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches under the national school lunch program. That means a preponderance of families in the district are low income, and children in poverty historically do not perform as well on standardized tests as their wealthier peers.
Other school districts face some of the same problems but not all face them to the same extent that TPS does.
Tulsa school officials know they have their work cut out. They could use help and support from the Legislature and the state Department of Education.