School Superintendents Hope To Change Formula For Determining Letter Grades

Monday, October 8th 2012, 9:47 pm
By: News On 6

The state board of education voted to hold off releasing letter grades for public schools Monday.

The sticking point is a category involving student growth, and superintendents from our area say it's simply not fair.

Seven Tulsa County superintendents say they support a grading system, but they give an "F" to the current formula used to come up with those grades.

Here's how a school's overall grade is figured: The growth factor that makes up 17% of the grade is why the state board delayed releasing school report cards. The formula only counts student improvements to figure out an average, and then grades students based on that average.

Students with standstill scores and students who actually lost ground aren't counted.

Superintendents say it's not fair to cherry-pick only the best scores to calculate an average.

"I mean, the average ought to be the cumulative of all scores and divide it. We all know how to do an average," said Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard.

10/8/2012 Related Story: A-F Grades: State Board Votes To Delay Release Of School Grades

Union Schools Superintendent Cathy Burden said, "The state department personnel had made an arbitrary decision, not grounded in the rules or in the law that overstated the state's average score."

These school leaders say the higher average sets a bar some students will never be able to reach, because it's mathematically impossible.

In Tulsa Public Schools alone, that would impact 30 schools.

"We believe that the average was skewed and it set the bar very high, and low achieving students, who might have achieved a little bit, did not get any credit," Ballard said.

"Just as we would expect our teachers to be very, very careful that they're fair, that they can explain it, that they understand it before they assign a grade, so should our state department of education," said Sand Springs Superintendent Lloyd Snow.

Changing the formula could improve scores by an entire letter grade.

The superintendents hope to work with the state to change the formula during the delay.

But State Superintendent Janet Barresi defends the way the grades are figured and say it's fair.

Regardless, she says it's the way the law is written, after the legislature passed it in 2011.

The board won't release the grades until at least October 25.