Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A-F Grades for Oklahoma Public Schools Released Today

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma State Department of Education today released the A-F Report Card for Oklahoma public school districts and schools. Available online at, the annual grades were approved at a special meeting of the State Board of Education.

The grading system is part of a larger, comprehensive effort to heighten accountability and transparency for Oklahoma schools, providing parents and communities with readily understood information about how their local schools are doing.

In the second year of SDE issuing the report cards, 354 schools, or 20 percent, received an overall A, compared to 160 in 2012. There were 499 schools that earned an overall B – 28 percent of all schools – while 472 (26 percent) received C’s. That compares to last year’s total of 842 B’s and 594 C’s.

There was also a significant rise in D’s and F’s, with 263 schools getting the former and 163 schools receiving F’s, a combined 24 percent of schools statewide. In 2012, the report cards recorded 138 D’s and 10 F’s.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi said this year’s grade results were expected in light of increasing academic rigor and changes made to the grade calculation. The results, she said, reflect what is occurring in other states as schools shift to stronger standards and the resulting instructional changes.

“Our students do not know less than they did, and teachers are not doing a poor job. Far from it. Classroom teachers are working hard, responding to more rigorous standards that will help children be prepared for successful and happy lives. As I had noted in August at a state Capitol news conference, this is a transformative time for Oklahoma education. The move to higher standards and expectations will be challenging, but the rewards will be generations of young people ready for college, career and citizenship.”

The grading formula underwent changes as the result of House Bill 1658. Signed into law earlier this year, it addressed a number of concerns that had been raised by district administrators.

Several factors utilized in last year’s calculations — such as Advanced Placement classes, dropout rates and the like — are now considered in bonus points that schools can accrue. The revised formula also raised the percentage factored in for student performance and student growth.

“I am proud of Oklahoma’s teachers and the incredible work they do day after day,” Barresi said. “It is a difficult job, but a crucial one in the lives of young people and the future of our great state. I would urge Oklahoma parents to take an active role in supporting our teachers.”

Release of the report card had been scheduled for Oct. 29, but Barresi ordered a delay after several issues surfaced during a 10-day review period. There were initial glitches in grade calculation due to OSDE. Afterward, grades fluctuated as the department fielded more than 1,100 updates from data verification changes.

“Through it all, we kept the grades online for districts to see, believing full transparency was the best course. The department worked to give districts as much time as possible to update the testing files so that the data we used in the report cards could be accurate, said Barresi.

“But as a result, there here has been much sound and fury from a number of quarters. Some district superintendents — knowing that some of their schools would be getting F’s — preemptively tried discrediting the grading criteria. 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.”

Used by a growing number of states, A-F school grades are aimed at raising education standards by making school performance clear. In past years, Oklahoma education officials had offered similar data through the Academic Performance Index (API), which evaluated schools through a 0 to 1500 scale. But many parents do not know API scores exist, much less how to interpret them.

By contrast, the A-F Report Cards use a time-tested grading system that has long served the needs of educators and students.

“The A to F grades are not a punitive tool. They are a tool of empowerment for parents and students,” said Barresi. “The report cards help us see which schools are having success so that we can provide best-practices for their peer institutions. Similarly, the grades identify the low-performing schools that need help.”

Barresi acknowledged that the A-F grades have met resistance from some administrators with a stake in defending the status quo.

“Change can be painful and sometimes scary. Nothing worth achieving is easy, but nothing is more worth it than the future of our children,” she said. “We can do better, and we will do better. Oklahoma’s teachers are too talented, too driven and too dedicated to do otherwise. Oklahoma’s students are too filled with promise to accept less.”

Statement by Governor Mary Fallin

Governor Mary Fallin released the following statement regarding the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s release of A-F grades for public schools. 

"Delivering high quality public education is one of the most important things we can do in Oklahoma to increase prosperity in our state. Good schools teach children the skills they need to succeed when they enter the workforce or pursue post-secondary education. They also help to produce the highly skilled workforce that we need to retain and attract businesses and jobs to Oklahoma.

"We have many great teachers and schools that are helping to produce positive outcomes and improve student performance. Those teachers and schools deserve recognition. Unfortunately, we know we are also falling short in many areas. Historically below average NAEP scores in reading, writing and math; as well as college remediation rates higher than 40% indicate that in many instances we are failing to prepare our students for life beyond high school.

"These are problems that need to be addressed—cooperatively and with a shared sense of urgency—by lawmakers, administrators, teachers and parents. But before we can improve education, we need a system that accurately measures success and failure.

"The A-F grades delivered today provide that system. They give parents an accurate, easily understood method of measuring the quality of education their children are receiving. They also give teachers and administrators a benchmark to measure progress.

"The grades issued today, as expected, paint a mixed picture. The majority of our schools are performing adequately. Many are operating at a very high level, thanks largely to dedicated and skilled teachers.

"Some schools, however, are clearly in need of immediate improvement. The superintendents and teachers of schools receiving a D or an F must remember: a bad grade is not a punishment; it is a call to action. Parents should also understand that we are absolutely committed to helping these schools succeed.

"Oklahoma has great teachers. We have a supportive community of parents who want to play an active role in their child's education. And we have state resources committed to delivering assistance as we work to move these schools in the right direction.

"Working together, we will succeed in better preparing our kids for college and the workforce. Nothing is more important for our children or for Oklahoma's sustained prosperity."

Statement by Dr. Robert Sommers

Dr. Robert Sommers
Oklahoma’s secretary of education and workforce, Dr. Robert Sommers, today issued the following statement regarding the release of the State Department of Education’s A-F grades for Oklahoma Public Schools. In addition to serving on Governor Mary Fallin’s cabinet, Sommers also serves as the director of the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education. Previously, he served as the superintendent of Butler Technology and Career Development Schools in Ohio.

“As a superintendent, I championed the use of data to reform my school district.  In 2001, the data showed my district was doing poorly. We were ranked 42nd out of 49 Ohio tech centers.

“In response to that ranking, which revealed that our students were underperforming, our staff and student body committed ourselves to improvement. After a lot of hard work, we were eventually ranked first in student performance for three years in a row.

“We didn't see the data as a negative. We saw it as an opportunity to measure success. Most importantly, we saw it as a motivator for change and improvement.

“The A-F grading system in Oklahoma offers the same opportunity today. Reporting school performance in a transparent and understandable way is a valuable tool for educational improvement.  Educators who embrace this information and engage their students, parents, and faculty in maintaining high performance or improving low performance are best serving Oklahoma’s children.”

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