Researchers from Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma who have analyzed and tested the reliability and validity of Oklahoma's A-F school grading system say it needs an overhaul, but no one seems to be listening.

The research team that has worked for a year and a half looking at the two methods the state has used for grading schools appeared Thursday at the OSU-Tulsa Faculty Research Excellence Lecture Series, a free, annual event.

The intent of the grading system implemented by the State Department of Education was to have a clear and transparent means of communicating the effectiveness of public schools. But the researchers concluded there were numerous flaws in the state's methods.

According to its waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act, Oklahoma is required to enact a school accountability system that accurately measures schools' achievement disparities. But instead of shedding light on them, Oklahoma's current A-F school grading system masks them and misleads the public, the researchers found.

"This simplistic system of providing a single letter grade is more political than it is a genuine pursuit of how effective schools are. It just makes sense that multiple indicators would be more useful to schools and communities," said Patrick Forsyth, of OU's Center for Education Policy.

The team's studies found virtually no significant student achievement differences in reading, math and science among A and B and B and C schools.

Mwarumba Mwavita, of the OSU Center for Educational Research and Evaluation, reviewed the team's three recommendations to state policymakers:

  • Issue school report cards just like those issued to students, with a series of grades for different indicators of performance.
  • Rely on trend data from several years, rather than a single year's test scores.
  • Hire specialists who can build a system that will provide ongoing feedback to students, parents, and educators throughout the academic year so they can intervene when needed in a timely fashion.

"Our study was not saying we are against accountability, but to test this policy of accountability. Is it reliable?" Mwavita said.

OSU Associate Professor Laura Barnes, who moderated the panel discussion, acknowledged that no action has been taken on the research team's recommendations.

"We were asked to present to legislators and it has not changed — we have not been asked to play a role. There were legislators who were interested in understanding this but nothing has come out of that," Barnes said.

Andrea Eger 918-581-8470

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