McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

State House

October 29, 2013

EDITORIAL: State Department of Education gets an “F”

Ada — Oklahoma’s public schools are still waiting for their respective report cards to be issued. Actually, that isn’t exactly true. Oklahoma State Department of Education statisticians have issued and reissued school report cards numerous times over the last week – an average of more than one bogus attempt per day — they just haven’t yet figured out the right formula for calculating them correctly.

Therefore public school educators may be forgiven if they are frustrated and weary of waiting to learn how the highly technical, highly arbitrary and highly inconsequential in real terms A-F report cards turn out for their respective schools. And that is the most salient point of all. No matter what the report cards say, they are of no real value for a host of reasons.

Oklahoma public schools’ report cards are heavily weighted toward academic improvement of the bottom 25 percent of students, depending on the school site. These are kids who can and do learn, and who can and do make progress, but who may take extra time to do so. Their scores are counted three times while advanced and proficient students’ scores are counted only once. It is a simple fact of life that school districts in more affluent areas of the state have very small numbers of special education students. As poverty rates go down, grades go up, and not all school districts are equal in that important determinant.

Oklahoma’s grading system actually penalizes schools for having special education students who have the tenacity to persevere in completing their high school educations but who take more than four years to achieve the goal.

Attendance is a key component of Oklahoma’s A-F school grading system, which sounds like a good idea, but in the end school administrators’ ability to force kids to consistently show up is limited. Another fallacy is in four-year graduation rates. Schools that have a 90 percent four-year graduation rate get points toward their letter grade. An 89 percent four-year graduation rate earns the school no points.

 The Oklahoma State Department of Education is the only entity that should be getting a grade, and it is an F.

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