Legislator calls for intervention of school report cards
BY ANDREA EGER & KIM ARCHER World Staff Writers
Thursday, October 04, 2012
10/04/12 at 4:32 AM
Just days before the scheduled release of new A-F grades for every public school and school district, an Oklahoma City legislator is calling on legislative leaders from both parties to intervene on behalf of dozens of education leaders who have publicly questioned the accuracy and fairness of their report cards.
State Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, said the grading-system problems described publicly by superintendents in districts from the Tulsa and Oklahoma City metro areas, as well as rural districts, could undermine the reputation of public schools across the state.
"The political leadership in both parties knows there is a huge problem with the rollout of state school ratings, and it's time for the governor and legislative leadership to intervene in this bizarre process before irreparable damage is done," Morrissette said.
"My Republican friends have the same reservations, but too few are speaking out," he said. "It's time for the legislative leadership to express publicly what they are saying privately about the questionable manner in which the process is being conducted."
Morrissette called the "tool-kit" that the Oklahoma State Department of Education sent to schools to provide guidelines and scoring information a "failure" and claimed that communication between schools and state education officials is worsening.
"I believe that every legislator wants to make Oklahoma's education system the finest in the nation. But a vindictive rollout designed to place public education in a bad light could harm our state's economic development efforts and make our military bases more vulnerable in any upcoming BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure Commission) hearings," he said.
Representatives from a host of school districts, including Bixby, Broken Arrow, Claremore, Durant, Edmond, Enid, Jenks, Midwest City-Del City, Oklahoma City, Owasso, Ponca City, Putnam City, Sand Springs, Sapulpa, Stillwater and Union, gathered in Sapulpa two weeks ago to discuss their many concerns about the grading system. Three Tulsa-area legislators who attended that meeting gathered a list of nearly 20 questions.
Rep. Eric Proctor, D-Tulsa, said he wonders why it took intervention from him, Rep. Jadine Nollan, R-Sand Springs, and Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, to get answers.
"Every single one of them had the same story. They had tried to get guidance and direction from the state superintendent's office for months and had heard absolutely nothing back," he said. "The sad thing is, (State Superintendent Janet Barresi) has only got any kind of answers when you've got a group of bipartisan legislators asking the questions."
Proctor added that it is clear to him that school leaders aren't opposed to receiving grades - they just expect the system to be fair and as transparent for everyone to understand as it is being purported to be.
He also echoed Morrissette's concerns about the possible effect inaccurate or unfair grades could have on economic development efforts by legislators and chambers of commerce that work to recruit businesses and jobs.
"They're going to say, 'Why would we come there when you've got 25 percent of schools that have an F grade?' " Proctor said. "And our response is, 'We don't know what the F grade means because we haven't had any direction from the state school superintendent on how to prepare for that.' "
House Speaker Pro Tem Jeff Hickman, R-Dacoma, said he has received feedback from superintendents in his district but needs to see the report cards for himself before he "renders judgment."
"I'm not sure how Rep. Morrissette could be forming such an opinion if he hasn't seen the report cards, which are embargoed until Monday," Hickman said. "Once we see the information as we work through this first year, if there are changes that need to be made, I will be one of the first ones to seek reform."
He added that the first-year report cards should not be perceived as punitive but only as a benchmark.
"We need to really evaluate whether we are providing parents with information that is easy to understand," Hickman said. "If there are legitimate concerns after you take the politics and personalities out of it, and if we have a system that is not accurately reflecting that, then I know there are people in both parties who are willing to make changes."
Original Print Headline: Legislator calls for intervention of school report cards
Andrea Eger 918-581-8470 Kim Archer 918-581-8315