Local superintendents applaud state Board of Education's decision to delay school grading system
BY ANDREA EGER World Staff Writer
Monday, October 08, 2012
Related story: A-F grades for schools delayed
Local school leaders said Monday that they hope the state Board of Education's action will send a clear message to State Superintendent Janet Barresi, who made the creation of an A-F school grading system a cornerstone of her campaign two years ago.
At an afternoon press conference in Tulsa, several superintendents spoke about the decision to delay the release of the A-F grading system for schools.
"We are not a disgruntled group of superintendents," said Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard. "I do believe superintendents, parents and others were not listened to in this debate. I think the clear statement from the state board was `Go forward but get the input first and do it in just this one area.' "
That one area of focus is the state's calculation of average, the bar against which all schools are measured to determine nearly one-fifth of their grade.
Instead of a true average, schools only received credit in this area if they met an average of all students who performed better on tests than they did last year. A coalition of 250-plus superintendents from across the state contended that it was a near-impossible feat and cost most schools credit that they are due.
"There are many issues that impact the integrity of a simple A-F system. Today, we agreed to focus on the most egregious one: the calculation of average," said Union Superintendent Cathy Burden.
"The state Department of Education had made an arbitrary system that had grossly inflated the state average and given an inaccurate measure of schools ... the state board unanimously voted to do the right thing. They charged the state Department of Education to recalculate the state average and find the true average," Burden said.
While Barresi defended the existing calculations and had vowed to push forward and release the grades that were determined by them, Burden said the state board's intervention "validates the concern of school personnel and of parents and will hopefully set a new standard for the state Department of Education to work more collaboratively."
Jarrod Mendenhall, superintendent of Broken Arrow Public Schools, went one step further, calling on Barresi to "end the blame game" and consider a pilot year for a simplified grading system.
"We do not fear reform. We do not fear accountability. We seek to engage in a dialogue," he said. "I strongly urge the state superintendent and her staff to involve the superintendents and parents who are invested in the success of our schools."
Beginning with a pilot program for the new system "would allow the state Department of Education and the schools the necessary time to understand and implement the system and make adjustments in the pilot year. It just makes sense," he said.
Dr. Keith Ballard, Tulsa Public Schools superintendent, speaks during a press confereence at the ESC in Tulsa about the State Board of Education overruling the state superintendent Janet Barresi in implementing a new state wide school grading system Monday. Behind Ballard are the superintendents from Union, Broken Arrow, Jenks, Sapulpa, Owasso and Sand Springs. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World