The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

October 9, 2012

School superintendents are anxious, critical about controversial report cards


Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Kids are always anxious to get their report cards.

An A grade may mean an ice cream sundae, while an F could mean the Xbox is disappearing.

Many Oklahoma public school superintendents are anxious, too, about getting their report cards based on the new A-F grading scale.

However, their issue is less about how they performed and more about the accuracy of the state’s grading method.

The anticipated release of report cards for every public school in Oklahoma was delayed Monday when the State Board of Education tabled the controversial issue until later this month.

Last Thursday, superintendents from 107 districts held a press conference to criticize the forthcoming report cards.

Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard said the new system is “highly discriminatory and is aimed at holding schools down.”

One concern is that that schools won’t be graded on the familiar 4.0 scale.

For students, 90 percent or better earns an A grade, and a 3.6 grade point average on a 4.0 scale is an A average.

But under the state’s new grading system, a school needs a 3.75 GPA, or 93.75, to be deemed an “A” school.

Most districts — including Enid Public Schools — don’t have problem with accountability.

But they are adamant about improving the quality of the new data.

“We are pleased with the state board’s decision to review the A-F system to ensure it adequately reflects the success of Oklahoma schools, as well as provides reliable information that can be used to improve student achievement,” said Amber Fitzgerald, human resources and communications director for Enid Public Schools.

The new A-F law mandates the state’s Education Department to implement the grading system.

The state claims the goal is to make school performance clear in a transparent manner easily communicated to the public.

David Goin, superintendent for Edmond Public Schools, told KFOR the standard for measuring growth is an uneven playing field for certain students. (Specifically, he was referring to English as a Second Language students, special education pupils or kids experiencing significant poverty.)

In response, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi said the new system simply measures positive growth.

Despite her disagreement, she said her department should release the A-F information along with data figured the way school superintendents requested it.

Department of Education Spokesman Damon Gardenhire said holding a press conference days before the report cards were to be released was “political posturing” designed to derail implementation of the 2011 law.

Regardless of the reason, the board will take up the matter of releasing A-F report cards at its Oct. 25 meeting. In the meantime, superintendents will remain anxious.

Ultimately, we hope this controversy will raise more awareness and parental engagement.