Research Reporting > Editorial Writing
Yesterday, for the second time in a month, the Oklahoman criticized a university study showing flaws in the SDE’s A-F Report Cards. First it was Dr. Jonathan Willmer’s report showing that poverty and other family indicators are strong predictors of a school’s final grade. Now, on the heels of CCOSA/OSSBA report showing huge statistical flaws in the A-F methodology, they again are skeptics.
Willmer is a professor at Oklahoma City University. He is the chair of the Department of Economics and Finance. He is not a pawn of professional educators. He is simply a scholar who saw a trend and decided to calculate it.
On the other hand, CCOSA and OSSBA represent administrators and school board members, respectively. Questioning their motives makes sense for an anti-education newspaper. However, the report was written by the Oklahoma Center for Education Policy (University of Oklahoma) and the Center for Educational Research and Evaluation (Oklahoma State University). The findings were then sent to two “internationally known experts” on research and educational measurements: Robert Lee Linn, a University of Colorado professor with more than 250 publications; and Robert J. Sternberg, a George Kaiser Family Foundation Professor of Ethical Leadership. Again, these are scholars who provided a look at the A-F methodology through a research lens.
The newspaper called the report “the latest attempt by opponents of accountability and transparency to roll back the A-F grading system, which they view as flawed, mostly because it’s easily understood.” That’s a tired claim. Nobody is running from accountability and transparency. Publish test scores. Divulge spending. Open is good. But the A-F Report Cards typify the difference between simple and simplistic – between “easily understood” and “misleading.”
The paper goes on to say that “parents seemed to quickly grasp that a D or F grade indicates lackluster school performance.” From my dealings with parents, they understand something entirely different – that these grades are highly flawed, and that schools are not adjusting how they work to improve based upon the grades they received.
To appear conciliatory at the end of the editorial, the Oklahoman admits that “some kernels of wheat may be found among the report’s chaff.” They go on to not explain to us what those kernels may be.
Here are the facts. Researchers from OU, OSU, OCU, CU, and The Kaiser Foundation have all agreed that flaws exist in the A-F Report Cards. These flaws are systematic. They are profound. They undermine a serious person’s attempt to find meaning in the results. What the researchers don’t say is that this was the intent all along – to dumb down the standards for accountability and transparency.