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A-F Report Card Rules Poised to Fail

May 2, 2012

Today, state leaders sent conflicting messages on the fate of proposed rules for the A-F Report cards. This new accountability system was created during the 2011 legislative system to replace the 0-1500 scale used to measure academic performance since the 2001-2002 school year. While Governor Fallin was busy approving tehm, a House committee voted 9-1 to reject them. Now, HJR 1125 will go to the full house, and hopefully the senate. If it then passes, the governor will have to decide between defying legislature or state superintendent. Ah, the glory of single-party rule!

State Department of Education (SDE) officials worked in isolation, without the benefit of understanding existing practice, to create rules for implementing the new accountability system. They then held a hearing during spring break in which respondents spoke to tape recorders. Following this exercise, the State Board of Education voted 4-2 to adopt the rules. Defiantly, the SDE then posted a list of myths and facts to assure the public that critics of the proposed rules were simply the usual brand of whiners who don’t want accountability because they don’t do their jobs.

Don’t believe for a minute that the concerns of school districts and education advocacy groups such as OEA, CCOSA, and OSSBA are self-serving or capricious. Rather they reflect the same concerns voiced over the last week in the legislature. In short, multiple and diverse camps are troubled by the lack of transparency in the development of these rules, the lack of fidelity to the legislative intent, and the low likelihood that the rules would produce accountability results that are easier to understand than the old system.

Also remarkable in this turn of events is the level of discord being shown between the SDE, legislature, and governor. Rejecting these hastily-developed, poorly-researched rules would be cause for teachers and administrators in the state to rejoice. parents should rejoice as well. Nobody knows the effectiveness of schools more than the people who send their children there every day. Parents don’t need a complicated formula that ends with a score from 0-1500 or an A-F grade to know whether their children’s needs are being met.

It is also important to remember that in spite of what some SDE officials say publicly, schools do not fear accountability. That’s not what this battle is about. Schools fear arbitrary labels derived from calculations based on the best guesses of people who have spent minimal time working in public education. Fix these rules, and there might be something good.

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