The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

November 6, 2013

16 times more state schools got failing grades this year

OKLAHOMA CITY — About 16 times more public schools in Oklahoma received a failing grade from the State Department of Education this year than last year, education officials reported on Wednesday.

The Oklahoma State Board of Education voted unanimously to release the newly revised A-F letter-grade report cards for public schools and districts in the state, despite the objection of some superintendents who claim the formula behind the grades, which was changed by the Legislature last year, is flawed.

Under the new grading formula, 163 schools in Oklahoma received an F grade, up from just 10 schools in 2012. The number of D grades increased from 138 in 2012 to 263 this year.

Republican State Superintendent Janet Barresi, a supporter of the new A-F grading system, said the increase in lower letter grades was expected because of a change in the grading formula that placed more of an emphasis on the test scores of students and reduced the impact of overall school improvement.

The results show more than twice as many schools also received an overall A grade this year, up from 160 schools in 2012 to 354 this year. There were 499 schools that earned a B grade, about 28 percent of all schools, compared to 842 B grades last year. There were 472 schools that received a C grade, down from 594 in 2012.

The A-F letter grade system was pushed by Republicans and signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin in 2011. Proponents claimed it would give parents an easy way to understand how their child’s school was performing and foster more parental involvement. But there’s no punishment for school districts that receive a failing grade.

The new formula used to determine the grades has drawn fierce criticism from superintendents.

Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard, whose 40,000-student district had 36 schools receive an F grade, said Tuesday that the grades were “flawed and completely inconsequential.”

“To say that 36 of our schools and 1,066 teachers are deserving of an ‘F’ is ludicrous, especially given the progress we are making with our district’s reform efforts,” Ballard said. “The reason this happened is because the formula does not fully recognize and reward the increased academic achievement of the students at these schools.”

Barresi acknowledged that the launch of the new grading system hasn’t been a smooth one, but suggested some district superintendents pre-emptively tried to discredit the grading criteria because they knew their districts would be receiving F grades.

“If these administrators put that same degree of energy and enthusiasm into turning around their challenged school sites as they did in criticizing the grades, then I am very optimistic about the future of those schools,” Barresi said.

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