The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

November 13, 2013

Issuing of school district grade cards expected Friday

By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

— School district grade cards are expected to be released by Friday, a spokesman for State Superintendent Janet Barresi said Wednesday afternoon.

Grade cards for individual schools were released last week. In what Barresi’s office said was an error, the Oklahoma State Department of Education website originally contained district grades as well, but the district grades were removed the same afternoon.

Phil Bacharach, director of communications for the Oklahoma State Department of Education, first said district grade cards will not have bonus points included in the calculation. Then he said attendance rates and dropout rates are not factored into the district grading formula.

District grades, as with site grades, will be calculated with 50 percent of the grade based on achievement, 25 percent from achievement of the bottom quarter of students, and 25 percent on student growth.

Districts can get only 10 bonus points, Bacharach said.

The superintendent’s office has been criticized over the fact poverty rates and the percentage of children who are learning English language at school do not factor into the grade calculation.

A study by The Oklahoma Center for Education Policy at the University of Oklahoma and The Center for Educational Research and Evaluation at Oklahoma State University, released last month, called school grading system “flawed and not credible” because it did not take poverty into account.

“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.”

Bacharach said poverty rates should not be part of the school’s grade.

“The superintendent feels strongly that poverty is not an excuse for schools to not expect kids to reach their full potential,” Bacharach said. “We think a great teacher is greater than poverty. We think schools redoubling their efforts are greater than poverty.”

Bacharach said the state made “a number of missteps with the gathering of the data,” but ultimately everyone wants the same thing.

“We want to make a better life for our children,” Bacharach said.

Shawn Hime, superintendent of Enid Public Schools, agrees.

“We hope to be invited to the table and given the opportunity to provide meaningful input that could make it a more useful and effective tool for Oklahoma students,” Hime said. “We know many educators and parents across the state who continue to stand ready to assist the State Department of Education with this effort.”