Evasive at Best
A few weeks ago, a group of superintendents met and developed a list of 16 questions related to the twin accountability systems that are new in the state this year. Then the Leadership Advisory Group of 51 superintendents from around the state met in Oklahoma City for cherry cobbler but no hard questions. Then a superintendent spoke about the lack of communication from the SDE at the September State Board of Education Meeting and had board members not only asking for a list of these questions, but also the answers to them.
Apparently, that was a lot to ask. While the SDE did send a answers to the questions back to the Sapulpa superintendent, not all superintendents got the responses. Nor did all SBE members.
Thankfully, I was able to acquire a copy of the responses. And as you would expect, I have some thoughts about them. I’ve highlighted in green the particular issues I have. My thoughts are organized below by question number:
- #1 – Not all of the data is from the 2011-12 school year. Graduation rates, ACT data, and AP test scores are all calculated from previous years. The SDE’s explanation to the public should probably clarify this.
- #2 – If districts are going to engage in an honest review of the designations given to them (such as Priority and Focus), they need to know how they’re being evaluated. As such, withholding information related to the Annual Measurable Objectives until mid-October is unacceptable.
- #4 – The superintendents ask for the number of schools that didn’t have enough students to count for the different subgroups. The SDE promises to answer the question later. They could have answered it now if they had wanted to.
- #6 – The SDE promises to be able to provide rank order data of schools through the secure site at a later date. That’s reassuring.
- #7 – For school choice that has to be offered to parents, the schools get to define “low-performing” student. I can’t for the life of me understand why the SDE is reluctant to be more specific here. Believe me: there will be a lot of interpretation by school districts here.
- #9 – This is a little technical, but one of the ways schools can show improvement is when a student matches the average growth of all students in the state. For some reason, the SDE chose to interpret the word average to mean average of all students who actually had increased scores. This method is not consistent with the adopted state rules. And it cuts out a lot of students – students who don’t count, apparently.
- #10 – When the SDE says ”The authors of the bill were very clear,” do they mean, (a) legislators; (b) ALEC; or (c) the state superintendent? This was one of the key talking points of Janet Barresi’s campaign in 2010. They’re not at the mercy of activist legislators. Somebody needs to remind the communication staff of the SDE that when it comes to A-F Report Cards, they got everything they ever wanted.
- #12 – On this one, I think superintendents should be careful what they wish for. If you want each letter grade to be in ten percent increments, that makes the A designation a lot more generous, but the B, C, and D designations a lot more stingy.
- #16 – For some reason, whoever wrote this missive felt the need to say that many of the staff responsible for this event are holdovers from the previous administration. I guess it’s good to know they haven’t fired everybody yet.
By my count, the SDE has failed to adequately answer 8/16 questions. Using a scale that is understandable to everybody, they get an F for their effort.