See Student Life for more
- Spanish - Site Map - Contact
Union Student Safety HelpLine
Originally posted October 9, 2012
Sherri Fair, director of student data and assessment at Union Public Schools, goes over data during a press conference in Tulsa on Monday. MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World
A-F report cards for Oklahoma schools delayed by Board of Education
BY KIM ARCHER Tulsa World Staff Writer
(Reprinted with Permission. This is not an endorsement.)
In-depth reporting on education in Oklahoma
Related Story: Superintendents applaud board's action on A-F grading delay
OKLAHOMA CITY - The state Board of Education voted unanimously Monday to delay a vote on releasing the first report cards of the new A-F grading system for all schools and districts statewide until the Oct. 25 regular meeting.
The board's decision went against the wishes of State Superintendent Janet Barresi. The board was set to vote to certify the new grades and then release them in the afternoon.
Board members agreed to delay the vote with the singular purpose of further reviewing how average student growth is calculated - a major sticking point for nearly 300 school districts statewide.
During public comments, Lisa Muller, assistant superintendent of curriculum at Jenks Public Schools, said the current way of calculating student growth "would be analogous to determining the average yardage of a running back by using only plays in which he gained yardage."
Later, Assistant State Superintendent Maridyth McBee, who heads the assessment and accountability division, noted that this specific item has "not been without controversy."
After McBee explained average student growth in response to board member Lee Baxter's request, he said, "Do you know how complicated that just sounded? I don't know what to make of it."
Board member Amy Anne Ford told Baxter the board approved the rules, so it is responsible for them.
"Then I approved a rule that wasn't clear," Baxter said.
Barresi and Ford said Oklahoma should be proud that 57 percent of its schools received an A or B grade.
According to the department, 9 percent of all state school sites got an A, 48 percent received B's, 34 percent got C's, 8 percent got D's and 1 percent of school sites received an F.
"I don't want that message to get lost. That is something to celebrate in this state," Ford said.
But board member Joy Hofmeister echoed the concerns of numerous school district administrators and parents about how student growth is calculated.
"We are in a position of public trust and their confidence in what is put out today," she said. "You can't unring the bell, but without restoring public trust on this issue, what good is the grade going to be?"
Hofmeister said the average student growth category was not included in the legislation that changed the state's school accountability appraisal system to the A-F grading and was left vague in the rules created by the state school board.
But Barresi disagreed, saying it is clear in the rules and that state officials were in touch with the authors of the legislation to determine their intent as they crafted the rules.
She urged the board not to delay the release of the grades because of what she called a minor issue.
"Well, it's only 300 school districts," Baxter said. "If you're unwilling to make a 'minor adjustment' like that, then what is that telling us?"
During public comments, Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard said nearly 300 school districts had joined the coalition of educators that began forming late last week to urge a delay in releasing the grades so they can be revised.
"I find it insulting for people to say that we're trying to hide from low scores. It's about fairness," he said.
Anna King, president of the Oklahoma Parent Teacher Association, said she represents 65,000 parents, and they also were asking the board to hold off on releasing the grades.
"I'm listening to superintendents, teachers, and they don't understand the calculations. So how can we?" she asked.
After the vote, Ballard said he was satisfied with the decision the board made. "I'm very happy with the outcome," he said.
Union Superintendent Cathy Burden said the board members were "courageous enough to do the right thing. It also reinforces to these districts ... that by speaking up, they have a voice," she said.
At one point in the meeting, Hofmeister, a former public school teacher and a member of the board of directors of the Jenks Public Schools Foundation, asked why a list of questions submitted by school superintendents didn't make its way to state school board members in a timely fashion.
"Information has been kept from us, perhaps by accident," she said.
Because she and others didn't get the questions early enough, Hofmeister said, it "makes it appear that all of a sudden, at the 11th hour, superintendents asked questions. That is not the case."
Barresi said she had asked that every state board member receive a list of the superintendents' written questions and thought it had been included in the members' legislative packets, which were given to them earlier.
"My impression was that they were in board packets. I'll take the blame for it. It was never intended for you not to get it," she said.
Ford said, "I don't like the implication that somehow there's some sort of conspiracy. I think this department has done an excellent job."
Immediately after the meeting, Barresi approached Hofmeister and confronted her about her questions as to why all state board members hadn't received the questions.
"You can say what you want about me. But don't impugn the reputation of my people," she said, raising her voice within earshot of numerous people in the conference room.
Ford, standing beside Barresi, added, "I agree."
When asked later about Barresi's confrontation, Hofmeister said she wasn't trying to accuse anybody of anything. She said she only wanted to show that school districts had questions well before last week's news conference.
Asked to characterize the exchange, Hofmeister said she would leave it to observers to decide for themselves.
"I understand it was a tough day. It was unfortunate timing," she said. "I look forward to working with (Barresi) in the future."
Dr. Keith Ballard, Tulsa Public Schools superintendent, speaks during a press conference in Tulsa on Monday about the state Board of Education overruling State Superintendent Janet Barresi in implementing a new statewide school grading system. Behind Ballard are the superintendents for Sapulpa, Owasso and Sand Springs: Kevin Burr (left), Clark Ogilvie and Lloyd Snow, respectively. MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World