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These are not the Rules You’re Looking For

February 22, 2013

You probably heard that a House committee voted 10-1 Wednesday to throw out the existing A-F Report Card rules because they are “not consistent with legislative intent.” I’m not so sure how true that is. We’d probably have to ask Jeb Bush, since both the law and the administrative rules were written by groups that he controls. In any case, the committee vote changes nothing. The full legislature would have to vote to throw the rules out, and the governor would have to approve as well.

The Oklahoma State Department of Education responded quickly. In a press release issued today, they announced that a new set of rules were available on their website for public review and comment. Interestingly, the release is dated February 27, 2013, which could be a mistake. It could also be an indication that the SDE was set to release these revised rules next week, but rushed them to completion with the political firestorm they have been enduring. From the press release:

OKLAHOMA CITY (Feb. 27, 2013) – Today the Oklahoma State Department of Education released for public comment several proposed changes to the A-F Report Card rule. These proposed changes are the result of concerns previously expressed by education stakeholders across the state including board members, superintendents, administrators, teachers, parents and state legislators.

Unfortunately, this latest iteration of rules is anything but responsive to previously expressed concerns. In October, I summarized my concerns into five categories:

  • There are vast differences in the scores earned by schools based on poverty levels.
  • The grade span disparity (easier to score well for secondary schools) diminishes the comparability between schools within districts.
  • Certain criteria were too heavily weighted, creating imbalances that adversely impacted scores.
  • Some schools serve special populations, and the formula does not account for these situations.
  • The grades fail to give parents simple information, such as the percentage of students passing tests.

Nothing in the proposed rules addresses these concerns.

Of course I’m not the only critic of the report cards. The OU/OSU research report called the grading system “meaningless for school improvement purposes.” Barresi has since told a group of parents that the researchers have changed their mind, which is completely false. More recently, a group of 25 superintendents asked for a public response to the report from Barresi, which they will never get.

The collective response to these rules changes should be outrage. This new draft solidifies the bad things and clarifies little. The practical concerns issued here and elsewhere – as well as the statistical and methodological concerns raised by the researchers – need to be repeated to the SDE, to your legislators, and to every media outlet in Oklahoma that still practices journalism.

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