New study: Oklahoma's A-F school report cards 'neither clear, nor comparable'
BY ANDREA EGER World Staff Writer
Thursday, January 17, 2013
1/17/13 at 2:36 PM
Continuing coverage: Your home to in-depth reporting and analysis on issues, trends and events affecting Oklahoma's public and private education systems.
Read the report: Read the examination of the A-F Report Cards.
The controversial new A-F report card system for public schools took another hit Thursday morning with the release of brand new research from policy experts at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University.
The examination was commissioned by the Oklahoma State School Boards Association and the Cooperative Council for School Administrators after the state board of education moved forward in October with a grade calculation method more than 300 superintendents say is flawed.
"Despite good intentions, the features of the Oklahoma A-F grading system produce school letter grades that are neither clear, nor comparable; their lack of clarity makes unjustified decisions about schools," researchers wrote. "Building on what has already been done, Oklahoma can and should move toward a more trustworthy and fair assessment system for holding schools accountable and embracing continuous, incremental improvement."
The report was authored by three senior research scientists and four research associates at the Oklahoma Center for Education Policy at OU and two senior research scientists at OSU's Center for Educational Research and Evaluation. It was reviewed and critiqued by an education researcher at the University of Colorado and a psychologist and psychometrician who is a professor and provost at OSU.
The report questions the statistical "validity, reliability and usefulness" of all three components of the new school report cards, which measure student achievement, student growth and whole school performance.
"By not making explicit threats to the validity of report card grades, the (Oklahoma State Department of Education) misinforms the public about the credibility and utility of the A-F accountability system," it states.
Rather than adding together the different components to arrive at a single grade, they recommend that schools receive report cards with grades for each indicator of school performance, in the same fashion students are graded for different subjects.
They also called on the state to enlist the services of objective assessment and evaluation experts to build an "exemplary" accountability system.
For the previous 10 years, Oklahoma's public schools had been assessed using a numerical school accountability scoring system, called the Academic Performance Index, or API.
State Superintendent Janet Barresi had campaigned for office on the idea of replacing the API scores of 0-1,500 with letter grades, saying that report cards would be easier for parents and others to understand.
In 2011, legislation was passed to formalize the A-F school grading system and subsequently, the state board of education adopted rules for the law's implementation. But not until schools began reviewing the state's first drafts of grade calculations in early September did controversy erupt.
Superintendents from a host of districts brought their concerns to the state board of education at its September meeting. Their primary areas of concern were a higher standard for achieving an "A" than is used to grade students and the education department's method of calculating average student growth - which determines 20 percent of a school's grade.
Superintendents believed the formula was unfair, because rather than measure schools against an average of all students' achievement scores, state education officials used an average of only students who made gains on state tests.