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Reaction Redux

October 26, 2012

In a letter that goes home to parents today, Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent calls the system for calculating A-F Report Cards “arbitrary and capricious.” He continues, saying:

“After today, I will no longer talk about the A-F school grading system. It is flawed, and I stand by my earlier comments that these grades are not an accurate representation of the work being done in our schools.”

Other superintendents share similar concerns.

Lloyd Snow from Sand Springs said that the SDE “needs to make the grading system more explainable…it is a flawed program and a flawed process.”

Derald Glover from Ft. Gibson said, “It is what it is…We’ve got a lot of important things going on in the district and the grade card is not a high priority for us.”

Mike McClaren from Claremore said, “There are a few questions we have regarding the overall grading of our schools…We just want to make sure there is a fair representation.”

Jim Glaze from Chickasha pointed out a specific concern: “I feel like it needs to be tweaked a bit…Student attendance is worth 1/3 of the total score in elementary school, about 30 percent in middle school and it’s not figured in when it comes to high school. If it is important at the lower levels then it should be just as important at higher levels.”

Outside the SDE, there is actual support for the report cards as well.

Gov. Mary Fallin, in a statement given before the grades were released, said, “The report cards released today give parents, students, teachers and administrators an easy way to identify success. As with any change, especially one that measures performance and demands accountability, these report cards will have their detractors. Ultimately, however, this is about what is fair and right for Oklahoma’s children, who deserve to attend schools with high standards and transparent measures of success.”

Meanwhile, the Oklahoman wrote this morning that the results of Oklahoma’s A-F grading system should be embraced. They call Edmond superintendent David Goin’s criticism of the system “baffling” because his district’s schools did so well.

Criticism from even the high-performing districts is testament, however, to the fact that no matter where you end up on the scale, you find both the product and process to be flawed. This isn’t just complaining by people trying to suppress their scores. The frustration is universal. Well, 313 superintendents out of about 520, anyway.

I saw a tweet today even comparing it to the color-coded terror threat system used by Homeland Security during the Bush Administration. Maybe that’s the best analogy. Systems such as these are designed to be easily understood by people who don’t like to think. School administrators and teachers have to think. And they’ve been using all the data at their disposal to make informed decisions since they got it this summer. These report cards contribute absolutely nothing to that process.

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