Authors dispute claim by Barresi
BY KIM ARCHER World Staff Writer
Thursday, February 14, 2013
2/14/13 at 8:01 AM
State Superintendent Janet Barresi told some parents Tuesday that authors of a report that concluded that the state's new A-F grading system is flawed have since privately renounced their analysis.
But the report's authors say that isn't true.
"I have no idea where that idea on the part of the superintendent came from," said senior project coordinator Patrick Forsyth, professor of education and co-director of the Oklahoma Center for Education Policy at the University of Oklahoma in Tulsa. "We are perplexed by that and don't know what to make of it."
When contacted Wednesday by the Tulsa World, state Education Department spokeswoman Sherry Fair said Barresi's claim was a result of a misunderstanding between Barresi and Assistant Superintendent Maridyth McBee.
Fair said McBee had a conversation with OSU researcher Laura Barnes after the release of the report and spoke with Barresi about it later.
But Barnes said she and McBee talked primarily about their personal lives. She said the two are friends and that she was McBee's doctoral adviser.
"There was nothing I said that could have been construed as an apology or acknowledgement of error," she said. "There was no meeting, no apology, no acknowledgement of error," she said.
"I had a personal conversation with Maridyth McBee because she is my friend and my former student. But Dr. Barresi wasn't there, and her statements are completely incorrect. We stand by our work and are confident in the results and the conclusions we drew."
McBee declined to comment.
According to the report, the A-F grading system is "neither clear, nor comparable."
Its authors are three OU senior research scientists, including Forsyth, four research associates, plus two senior research scientists at Oklahoma State University's Center for Educational Research and Evaluation.
It was reviewed independently by Robert Linn, an education researcher at the University of Colorado, as well as by internationally known psychologist and psychometrician Robert J. Sternberg. He is an OSU professor and provost.
After the state Board of Education approved the state's grade calculation methods in October over the objections of more than 300 superintendents, the Oklahoma State School Boards Association and the Cooperative Council for School Administrators commissioned the analysis.
Jenny Hudspeth, a member of the Tulsa Area Parents Legislative Action Committee, was one of several people who heard Barresi tell a group Tuesday at the Tulsa County Republican Women's luncheon that the authors had debunked their own report.
"It seemed remarkable to me," she said. "She also said she would like an apology from the authors with as much fanfare as the release of the report."
When others in the group suggested that the department send a news release to announce the authors' about-face, Barresi reportedly said her staff had told her it would just be a "tit for tat back and forth."
Another Tulsa Area Parents Legislative Action Committee member, Angie Rains, also heard Barresi's pronouncement.
"It was news to me," she said. "It's hard to know what to say at the moment. It just made me want to find out."
Forsyth said he and the other experts have not met with anyone from the Department of Education since the release of the report, nor have they apologized or been asked to apologize for it.
"I just think that there isn't anyone at the state Department (of Education) who can really understand the scope of the critique," he said. "From what was reported to me, the superintendent is just essentially dismissive of the report."
Hudspeth said Barresi told her the A-F grading system doesn't lend itself to being analyzed the way it was.
Said Forsyth: "(Linn) is perhaps the foremost scholar in terms of school evaluation and assessment in the world. We are reasonable scholars, and we think we know what we're talking about. But, in addition to that, we submitted (the report) to the review of an indisputable expert, and he concurs with our views."
He said the entire A-F grading system should be scrapped and that the department should start over.
"No one is opposed to looking at school performance. But it's so convoluted. It's arbitrary as to how the letter grade is constructed and sort of unconventional," Forsyth said.
The grading calculations are difficult to explain to anybody, he added. "In one sense it pretends to be this simple way of giving you a snapshot of the performance of a school, but in fact it hides much more than it reveals," he said.
Forsyth said the researchers' view is that the system should use raw scores of student performance to show how students at a particular school performed.
"Some of that performance is due to things completely outside the power of schools to do anything about," he said.
"Using a letter grade hides the fact that much of school performance hinges on concentrated poverty and issues like that."
Kim Archer 918-581-8315
State Superintendent Janet Barresi: An aide says a statement at a meeting was the result of a misunderstanding.