School leaders have 'no confidence' in grade plan
BY KIM ARCHER World Staff Writer
Friday, October 05, 2012
10/05/12 at 5:35 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - School administrators from across the state voiced frustration on Thursday with the lack of dialogue they have had with State Superintendent Janet Barresi and her administration - not only about the new grading system but every other policy affecting the state's schools.
"I think if we continue down this path, then people are going to begin to not trust education in general," Broken Arrow Superintendent Jarod Mendenhall said after a press event in which leaders of a coalition of more than 80 superintendents expressed "no confidence" in the new school grading system.
State Superintendent Janet Barresi is set to release the A to F grades to the public on Monday.
Members of the group are calling on the state Department of Education to reconsider the release date because they say the grades don't accurately reflect the quality of instruction or student performance. Several school leaders pointed out specific calculations that skewed the accuracy of the grades, including how both student growth and school performance are measured.
"We have been trying for months to get access," said Liberty Superintendent Donna Campo. "We are major stakeholders in the process but we are left out every time. It does not make sense to leave professionals out of the discussion."
Purcell Superintendent Kathy Draper said she, too, found errors in her school's grade calculations, but her chief complaint is that a school's grade is too easily skewed by scores for its lowest-performing students.
"It's so complicated that it's hard to figure out how we are going to explain it to our parents," Draper said. "When the legislation was passed, it was passed with the premise that it was going to be simple to understand. The scale is higher. How do I explain to a parent why their site is getting a B when on the normal grading scale they would be getting an A?"
The lack of input into how the grading system was formulated has left school leaders feeling disenfranchised.
"My intention in being here is not to be adversarial," said Sean McDaniel, superintendent of Deer Creek Public Schools in Edmond. "But I would like the experts in education to be involved in the decisions. I would really have liked to have been involved before the decisions were made."
If school leaders can't get answers to their questions about how the grading system was calculated, McDaniel also wondered how educators will explain to parents how the grades were derived.
"We're not getting any answers. It's a travesty," he said. "Ongoing communication and collaboration is essential in public education."
Summary of school leaders' position on A-F school grading system
Original Print Headline: School leaders fault communication, calculations
- School districts are not opposed to an improved method of communicating school performance to parents and the community. They have concerns with the Oklahoma State Department of Education's method for calculating the A-F report cards.
- The new A-F grading system is anything but clear, straightforward and easily communicated, despite State Superintendent Janet Barresi's claims. It requires a 10-page technical guide and a 28-page report card guide with 48 different calculation tables to explain the "complex manipulation of numbers" used to arrive at the "simple" A-F grades attributed to Oklahoma public schools.
- The formula used to calculate "state average growth" is not a true average. By using only the scores of students who improved their scores from the previous subject test, the Oklahoma State Department of Education is misrepresenting the average amount of growth achieved this year. By excluding any student score that was zero or negative, the "state average growth rate" is an inflated number that is not representative of all students' performance. This unique interpretation of "average" has resulted in lower grades for each school and directly impacts the amount of support some parents and students may receive, including school choice.
- The state Department of Education has publicly criticized the accuracy of the data provided by school districts. In reality, 94 percent of all weighted data used on the A-F report card was supplied by the SDE. The 6 percent of information supplied by the school districts has minimal or no impact on a school's letter grade.
Kim Archer 918-581-8315