The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

November 7, 2013

Superintendent: Children from poverty face challenges

By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — The Enid elementary school with the highest percentage of students who are English language learners, as well as the highest percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, got the lowest possible grade when the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s A-F Report Cards were issued Wednesday.

Garfield Elementary School, where 33 percent of the students are English language learners and 97.3 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, was one of two elementary schools to be awarded a letter grade of F.

The other Enid elementary school given an F was Monroe, where 20 percent of children are English learners and 91.2 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

Adams and Coolidge elementary schools, which have 27 and 28 percent of English language learners and 92.5 and 95.6 percent of students getting free or reduced-price lunches, didn’t get stellar letter grades, either. Adams was given a C+, and Coolidge a D-.

“When it comes to school readiness, children from poverty often do not have the same advantages as their peers,” Enid Superintendent Shawn Hime said. “Research has shown that children from low-income homes — in the first four years of life — are exposed to 30 million fewer words than those from high-income homes. ELL students, on the other hand, often are working to learn how to speak, write and understand English, which can make it difficult to learn the content being taught in the classroom.

“This does not mean that all children cannot be successful; they can. It does mean that we need to provide additional strategies, attention and time to meet their needs. Our district is focused on continuous improvement and long-term, sustainable academic progress so that all students will be college and career ready upon graduation.”

Janet Barresi, state superintendent of public instruction, said in a press release this year’s grade results were expected in light of increasing academic rigor and changes made to the grade calculation as the result of House Bill 1658, which addressed a number of concerns that had been raised by school district administrators.

Several factors used in last year’s calculations, advanced placement classes, dropout rates and the like, now are considered bonus points that schools can accrue.

The revised formula also raised the percentage factored in for student performance and student growth. Student performance now is 50 percent of the overall grade. The other 50 percent is equally divided between overall student growth and student growth for the bottom quarter of students.

At Garfield, the performance index score for reading, mathematics, science and writing was 50. The overall growth score for reading and mathematics was 71 and the score for growth among the bottom quarter of students was 61.

At Monroe, the performance index score for reading, mathematics, science and writing was 51. The overall growth score for reading and mathematics was 69 and the score for growth among the bottom quarter of students was 52.

At the opposite end of the scale, Eisenhower, Glenwood and Hoover elementary schools all got A’s.

One percent of Eisenhower students are English learners, and 37 percent qualify for for free or reduced-price lunches.

Four percent of Glenwood students are English learners, and 62.5 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

At Hoover, 7 percent of  students are English language learners, and 67.5 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

Hoover’s performance index score for reading, mathematics, science and writing was 89. The overall growth score for reading and mathematics was 94 and score for growth among the bottom quarter of students was 81.

Hime said earlier research from the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University found the state grading formula to be “flawed and not credible.”

That study, “Oklahoma School Grades: Hiding ‘Poor’ Achievement, A-F Report Card,” was released last month.

It was compiled by The Oklahoma Center for Education Policy at OU and The Center for Educational Research and Evaluation at OSU.

“Decisions about intervention should take demographics such as poverty and neighborhood vitality into consideration,” the study authors wrote. “A bureaucratic evaluation system that produces nearly meaningless grades is no substitute for reasoned decision-making based on careful consideration of all credible evidence.”