Tulsans share criticism of A-F grade system with legislators
BY KIM ARCHER World Staff Writer
Saturday, January 19, 2013
1/19/13 at 5:51 AM
JENKS - Tulsa-area parents told legislators Friday that the state's A to F grades for all Oklahoma schools should be retracted in light of a report slamming the validity of the school report card system.
At a meeting of the Tulsa Parent Legislative Action Committee, about 90 parents and some teachers met in small groups with nine legislators, including a co-sponsor of the legislation that established the A-F grade system, Rep. Lee Denney, R-Cushing.
She said she was disheartened to hear the conclusions of policy experts at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University. Denney said she believes that the formula should have been configured by statisticians and psychometrists.
Still, she said, "I don't think we need a knee-jerk reaction."
The report cards were released for the first time last fall.
According to the report's authors, the grading system "misinforms the public about the credibility and utility of the A-F accountability system."
The report was written 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 by an education researcher at the University of Colorado and a psychologist and psychometrician who is a professor and provost at OSU.
"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," the report says.
Several parents argued that if the grades assigned schools are flawed, then they should be taken off the state school board's website. But legislators said they don't have control over that and told parents to let the Education Department know what they think.
In a written response to the parents' concerns, Education Department officials told the Tulsa World: "The current report cards have been adopted, released and will remain posted. We are asking for specific changes we believe will address many of the concerns expressed by school administrators and others."
Department officials said the changes are in proposed legislation and will be included in rules that are being drafted.
"We believe that A-F is a very important reform that has been welcomed by the general public," the statement says.
Denney said the grading system is law but that it should be improved.
"The total intent of the legislation was to give a thumbnail sketch of how schools are doing," she said. "What Florida says is they've tweaked their (A-F system) for 10 years."
"I don't think Florida is the bar," Owasso parent Kimberly Cacciola said. "Honestly, there's damage being done with this. It makes our state not look so appealing."
Parents and teachers also expressed displeasure with the state's new requirement that high school students pass four of seven end-of-instruction exams to graduate.
Students who do not meet the requirements and believe they have extenuating circumstances may ask the state Board of Education to waive that requirement.
Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, defended the requirement.
"What the data tells me is that Tulsa County has a problem," he said, adding that "the lion's share of waivers" were from Tulsa County.
Nelson said a student need score only about 49 percent to pass the Algebra I test.
"How hard can that be?" he asked.
State officials present
- Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb
- Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa
- Rep. Dennis Casey, R-Morrison
- Rep. Lee Denney, R-Cushing
- Rep. Katie Henke, R-Tulsa
- Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City
- Rep. Seneca Scott, D-Tulsa
- Rep. Pam Peterson, R-Tulsa
- Rep. Glen Mulready, R-Tulsa
- Rep. Jadine Nollan, R-Sand Springs
Kim Archer 918-581-8315