State ed board debates proposed changes to A-F school grading system
BY KIM ARCHER World Staff Writer
Friday, March 01, 2013
3/01/13 at 7:07 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - The state education board heard proposed changes to the A-F school grading system Thursday, prompting some heated discussion about whether the public must restrict their comments to the changes rather than the entire system.
"You have boxed the board in. You didn't come to us and say these are the rule changes we want to have. You didn't do any of that," board member Lee Baxter said.
Board legal counsel Kim Richey told Baxter that the reasons given for the proposed changes are written broadly enough that it would allow for comments on any portion of the A-F school grading system.
Since its approval late last year, the A-F school grading system has been fraught with controversy. More than 300 superintendents statewide told the state Education Department that the formula used to determine each school's grade was flawed and that they had no input into the system's creation.
State Superintendent Janet Barresi said the proposed changes to the A-F grading system rules won't be the last. This will be "a continuous and ongoing process as it is with all of our reforms."
Under proposed changes, schools would get credit for each advanced course a student takes, the school climate survey would be eliminated and districts would have more time to verify data they send to the state.
At one point, board member Joy Hofmeister asked why the department hadn't answered a letter sent by more than 25 superintendents asking the agency to respond to a report by University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University researchers that suggested the A-F system is faulty and the state should start over.
"Instead of going through the process of exchanging letters, we would prefer to meet with folks face-to-face, and that is what we are in the process of doing," said Joel Robison, Barresi's chief of staff.
Board member Bill Price said he hadn't seen the OU-OSU research, but he had a copy of a letter in his board packet from a Northwestern University professor who praised Oklahoma's A-F school grading system.
In February, researcher David N. Figlio of Northwestern University in Illinois sent a letter to state Sen. John Ford, R-Bartlesville, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, praising Oklahoma's new A-F system.
"If Oklahoma is serious about school accountability, the state should not abandon the school grading system currently in place," he wrote.
In an email Thursday to the Tulsa World, Figlio wrote: "In my letter, I intentionally spoke to the concept, rather than the formula. I think that it is essential that a quantitative school grading system evaluate schools based both on 'status' measures such as student proficiency rates, attendance, or graduation rates, as well as 'growth' measures such as indicators of student year-to-year change."
The most important thing, he said, is whether Oklahoma's end-of-instruction tests are good, something he hasn't studied.
"The thing I really like about Oklahoma's emphasis on struggling students is that it explicitly encourages schools to pay attention to students who may have been falling through the cracks, rather than relying on crude subgroup measures that are only a very rough approximation of academic disadvantage," Figlio said.
He said he would rather not comment on specifics related to the formula, which is what more than 300 superintendents statewide found faulty, as well as research released last month by OU and OSU researchers. That report, which took three months, said the system ought to be scrapped and the state should start over.
Some state educators were concerned that Figlio had ties to Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education. He is the external evaluator of Florida's school voucher program but received the contract when Charlie Crist was Florida governor. "I pride myself in being politically neutral, and over the years have upset the left and right in equal measure," Figlio wrote.
In other action: The board approved the addition of new end-of-course projects as a result of modifying each of the existing 25 projects to fit within three categories - projects for all students, projects for those with learning disabilities or English language learners and projects for profoundly disabled students. Each student's individualized education program team will determine which category of project would be appropriate for that student, said Melissa White, executive director of the state's counseling and Achieving Classroom Excellence programs.
Under the ACE law, students must pass four of seven end-of-instruction tests to graduate from high school. Special projects may be completed as an alternative to a subject test. The projects were created by committees of teachers, administrators and other stakeholders.
The board also voted to add Bishop Kelley High School in Tulsa to the list of schools that may participate in the Lindsey Nicole Henry scholarship program.
The Henry law allows the use of public funds to send special-needs students to private schools.
Dove Science Academy in Tulsa was awarded one of nine $60,000 grants statewide to use Advancement via Individual Determination, or AVID, curriculum.
The curriculum holds students - many who are at-risk or underserved - accountable to the highest standards while providing academic and social services, according to the AVID website.
Jenks and Tulsa Public Schools participate in the AVID program, said Richard Caram, the state's director of C3 (college, career and citizen-ready) schools.
Original Print Headline: Proposed changes to A-F system debated
Kim Archer 918-581-8315
Janet Barresi: The state superintendent said the A-F school grading system will see more changes as education reforms are implemented