Oklahoma Senate Study Reevaluates School Grading System

Oklahoma Senators conducted an interim study looking into school evaluation.

Thursday, October 12th 2023, 5:28 pm

By: News 9


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State lawmakers are asking whether the way Oklahoma evaluates schools is actually improving education in the state.

The Senate held an interim study looking at the A through F report card system.

“It’s time to look at this and see if it’s still meeting our needs and serving our purposes,” Senator Jo Anna Dossett (D-Tulsa) said.

Letter grades have been used to evaluate Oklahoma schools for more than a decade, and are considered a staple for the education system.

Sen. Dossett sponsored the interim study looking at A through F report cards in the state. She says this is something she’s been looking at since she took office in 2020, and even before that when she was a teacher.

“I remember my first year as a teacher, and my school being given a letter grade of ‘C.’ I thought that grade did not fairly or accurately represent the quality of teaching I knew was happening in our school,” said Dossett. “Based on my own experience in the classroom, as a mother, and now, as a legislator, I know others in the Capitol and throughout Oklahoma are asking questions about the A-F system, especially the impact of factoring in chronic absenteeism, something beyond a school’s ability to control.”

She explains this study was an opportunity to look at what other states are doing instead of the A through F system, and what Oklahoma could do differently.

“There are other ways to do that besides A through F. A through F is not required by federal regulations,” Dossett said.

The federal government only requires states to identify the bottom five percent, in order to help struggling schools.

“Let’s just say, here are the schools that need comprehensive support, targeted support. That’s all we have to say,” OEA President Katherine Bishop said.

Bishop was a member of the taskforce that helped develop the current A through F system in 2015. She says the way the system is working now is not how it was originally envisioned.

“For many of us, that system is a test and punishment system that says ‘you’re an F school, you’re failing.’ Instead of saying ‘this is a school that needs supports and services’ and ‘what do we need to do? Let’s develop a plan and let’s get in there and help them,’” Bishop said.

Senate Education Chair Adam Pugh says it’s not very clear what the A through F system is actually used for.

“I'm not for it or against it. I'm just worried we are not using the current version to drive anything; we're using it to check a box because it's a federal requirement,” said Pugh.

The interim study looked at other states that are doing away with A through F grades.

“Maybe it's not serving our purposes. Maybe we don't even know what the purpose is anymore, and we can have a conversation about that and try to advance some legislation about that,” said Sen. Dossett.

Chronic absenteeism is currently a factor in the evaluation. Pugh wrote a bill that would remove it.

“When you punish a school for kids not being there, you’re punishing the school for something that is almost entirely outside of its control,” Pugh said.

The same bill last year was stalled in the House, but Dossett says she’s hoping to get it back on track next session.

“I think the time is right,” said Sen. Dossett.

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