State Superintendent Balks At School A-F Grades Report

Thursday, October 22nd 2015, 6:02 pm
By: Grant Hermes

For the third year in a row, the State Board of Education determined the A -F grades given to schools are not an accurate way to measure them at a meeting Thursday. This comes in the midst of a statewide teacher shortage and yet another budget shortfall for Oklahoma’s embattled education department.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister has indicated she has no confidence in the validity or reliability of the report cards in their current framework. The OSDE determines the grades using a formula that had been mandated by a 2013 state law.

“It is not meaningful. It is not useful. It is simply confusing,” Hofmeister said.

According to a release from the board, out of 1,762 schools, 212 A’s, 497 B’s 536 C’s 333 D’s and 184 F’s were given out.  By contrast, in the 2014-15 school year, there were 284 A’s, 470 B’s, 492 C’s, 292 D’s and 196 F’s. Board members also agreed to attach a memo to the numbers citing the flawed grading system.

See the full list of report cards.

The grades are calculated based on the scores of state tests given to fifth and eighth graders. Critics say the tests don’t allow for complex or outside factors that may show different ways students are improving. Opponents say they are an absolute way to measure academic progress, holding teachers and administrators accountable.

In a release, the Department of Education said it supports strong accountability for education, but problems with the A-F Report Cards have seriously undermined the system’s credibility. The U.S. Department of Education has also criticized the report cards and is requiring modifications as a condition for receiving the No Child Left Behind waiver.

“You can have a ‘B’ and still have a 60 percent graduation rate, Hofmeister said. “That's not good. There’s something wrong with that picture.”

She added in an interview after the discussion, she didn’t want to do away with the A-F scale, but said the grading formula needs to be redone. She also encouraged parents to find the report card for their child’s school but also be more involved with teachers, schools and their communities.

10/22/2015 Related Story: OK Education Department Releases A-F Report Cards For Public Schools

Some board members raised questions about how the current measure compare to the state’s previous metric of Achievement-Progress-Improvement, in which schools were graded on progress made. It wasn’t decided on whether that would be a portion of the memo.

School districts have also balked at the grades. In a statement Thursday, Oklahoma City Superintendent Rob Neu said, "It is unfortunate that students, principals and teachers must again be labeled with a letter grade that is derived from a flawed accountability system."

However, House Bill 1823, which took effect in June, requires the State Board of Education to submit a report on the statistical trustworthiness of the system to the governor and legislative leaders by Dec. 31. Research scientists at Oklahoma University and Oklahoma State University are conducting a review and are expected to have recommendations by December. Hofmeister did not give an indication if there were currently alternate plans for a new grading formula.