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A-F Revisions: The Binary Version

April 2, 2013

In case you missed it last week while you were doing your jobs – which may have included sorting out a giant mess with the late arrival of testing materials – the State Board of Education approved revised rules for the A-F Report Cards that didn’t resemble the changes proposed in February. While it is within the SDE’s prerogative to propose rules, accept public comment and then adopt slightly different rules, what they did here was altogether different.

It was a bait and switch.

Nothing in the proposed rule changes included a shift to all or nothing performance. Either students pass or they don’t. Gone are the 0.2 additions for Limited Knowledge and Advanced. Gone are the one, two, and three point increments for student growth. It’s all or nothing. You grow or you don’t.

It’s as if the SDE took the harshest pieces of criticism from the OU/OSU report and catered their revisions to exacerbating things. The changes to the proposed changes got very little press, but there was this comment embedded in another article in the Oklahoman:

During the discussion about A-F reform, board members discussed the details about the formula used to grade schools. Board members debated issues such as whether the public had enough time to comment on proposed changes.

State schools Superintendent Janet Barresi said the agency followed the law and that public comment was gathered and incorporated into changes.

“Every single year, we’re really comfortable in taking a fresh new look at this to see how we can make the system better,” she said. “But at some point, you have to stop deliberations” and move on.

Yes, Superintendent Barresi, you and your staff satisfied the statutory requirement to go through the comment process. And once again, you did it in a perfunctory manner rather than listening to your constituents.

The SDE also changed the grading from a 4.0 to a percentage scale, as schools do in the classroom. I know the loss of increments in student performance will hurt schools and districts; I have no idea which direction the scale change will take the majority of grades. I just know that none of us saw this coming.

As with last year, schools and districts will have spent the entire school year working under accountability requirements that were not made clear to them from the beginning. This is why most schools – while they would like better grades – simply work to improve the performance of every single student they teach, every single day…rather than focusing on the letter grades. Teachers and administrators feel that the outcome is largely out of their control and instead being manipulated from within the catacombs of the Oliver Hodge Building.

These rules now have to be approved by the legislature and governor. Given the frustration expressed by many at the Capitol over the A-F Report Card process, I don’t expect this to be the last word.

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  1. April 7, 2013 at 3:52 pm
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