School Superintendents Express Concerns Over New Oklahoma School Report Cards

Thursday, October 4th 2012, 12:28 pm

Oklahoma School superintendents are complaining about the new "A-F" grading system.

Report cards for schools come out Monday for the first time, but the superintendents complain the grades will be lower than they should be.

The districts complaining are responsible for 300,000 students.

With one voice, they said Thursday they support the system of assigning districts a grade, A-F, but not the way the grades are figured.

When this many school superintendents speak with one voice, they expect people to listen, but they said the State Superintendent is not listening to their complaints about the grading system.

9/25/2012 Related Story: Oklahoma Schools Soon To Receive Letter Grades On Performance

"This formula you're about to see is not generating an accurate view of what's happening," said Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard.

Led by Ballard, more than 88 school districts asked for changes, before the grades are released.

"What we're saying is that let's make sure it's correct before we put it out there," said Broken Arrow Public Schools Superintendent Jarod Mendenhall.

In particular, the superintendents complain the grading system puts too much weight on the progress of the lowest performing students.

"The formula, as it's being used right now, takes into account more of the demographics and the socio-economic conditions of the school, than the value added by the instructional practices," said Superintendent of Union Public Schools Cathy Burden.

The superintendents have complained for months to the state and the legislature, but their unified effort comes just four days before the grades are to be released.

Janet Barresi, the state's Superintendent, said, "But at this eleventh hour, after all these months of vetting, I really question the motives."

Barresi said she believes the superintendents are trying to deflect criticism to the grading system, instead of the schools that earned the marks.

"All of the rules were written to make it as fair as possible," Barresi said, "This is done. This isn't about technicalities; it's about a parent's right to know how their child's school is performing."

And Governor Mary Fallin added, "I'm disappointed that a small group of superintendents continue to cling to the status quo by staging last-minute political stunts designed to sabotage a solid reform."

The superintendents say that's not what they're doing, but they do want the grades to be an accurate measure of the schools.

"This is a big deal and we want to get it right and we think we should get it right, right out of the box," Sapulpa Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Burr.

The State Department of Education plans to release the report cards Monday [website] and has reported that the bulk of schools earned a "B" or "C" and less than 2 percent earned an "F" grade.

"We express 'no confidence' in this report card and are asking the state legislature and state school board to act to stop the release," Burden said.