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Premature Explanation

October 11, 2013

Always proactive when it comes to education issues, the Oklahoman ran an editorial today defending the A-F Report Cards that will be issued to schools – in 18 days.

At the end of October, the state Board of Education will approve the A-F grades for Oklahoma schools. The introduction of higher standards on state tests for fifth- and eighth-grade science and writing, as well as high school biology, means students are now less likely to be found “proficient” in those subjects, which also lowers schools’ A-F grades.

Schools’ grades are also affected by changes Oklahoma lawmakers approved to the A-F formula this year in response to administrators’ requests. The combination of higher standards in testing and revisions to the school-grade calculation is expected to cause more schools to get an F or D on their report cards. Fewer schools will get an A; many more will be in the B and C categories.

Spoiler Alert! Pretty soon, they’ll be telling us about the last episodes of Breaking Bad and Dexter, too…

The list of reasons that this year’s report cards aren’t comparable to last year’s report cards is pretty long. The categories are different. The points assigned within categories are different. Some criteria have been eliminated or moved to bonus points. The cut scores on the tests changed. That’s three right off the top of my head.

The reasons not to take the grades seriously are even longer, and more profound. The writing test was moved from February to April after “administrative challenges” in awarding the testing contract the first time around. The writing mode changed without much warning. The tests were disrupted by server problems on the part of the testing company. Cut scores changed, against the recommendations of the educators the SDE gathered to set them. And as late as this week, districts were notified that thousands of writing tests would need to be re-scored. Have I left anything out?

So we’re supposed to accept the grades schools receive and assign meaning to them? You’ll have to forgive me if I have a good laugh, then tell school patrons the truth.

The grades are contrived to support a narrative. They don’t reflect the work that our students and teachers have done. And they come six months after our students have tested.

This year, the grades will be released to much less fanfare than last year. This year, they may even be released without the State Board of Education tabling them for a month first. Maybe the OU/OSU researchers who discredited the statistical worthiness of the grades last year will have a change of heart this time around. A real one – not the one that was erroneously reported by Superintendent Barresi last year.

Next week, when administrators get their first look at the calculations, we should get some idea. We’ll probably get more drivel like this on the editorial pages too.

  1. Danny Swopes
    October 11, 2013 at 11:03 pm


    Some suggestions when the infamous A-F Report finally comes out (in our office pool for $10 I got December 7th for the final release of this document – Pearl Harbor Day – Janet is certainly consistent – She hasn’t made a deadline yet), It was originally scheduled to be out the end of October, That date has been changed due to another mess up by CBT in the scoring of our 5th and 8th grade writing tests given in April. CBT has only had 6 months to score these tests, but announced this week they had erred again in their job (see a consistent pattern of ineptness here?). We are only paying them $28 million for four years.

    Suggestions one – Ask the parent or patron do they trust in intelligence, honest and professionalism of our two research institutions, Oklahoma University and Oklahoma State University. If the answer is yes, then tell them to ignore the grade your school site has been assigned by the A-F Report, initiated by Janet and the author of the 2013-14 VERSION II Senator Jolley, AN ATTORNEY, NOT AN EDUCATOR,
    Both of these honored institutions stated the A-F Report Card document is a flawed, inaccurate work that does not in any valid, research manner reflect a TRUE picture of how successful Oklahoma schools are in educating our children.
    Let me reflect on that statement for a minute ???? Trust the expert, unbiased researchers from these two nationally recognized research institutions, whose conclusions were verified by educator researchers at the University of Colorado??? OR trust a document created by a non-educator (lawyer) who has let it be known this document will lead to an educational public school system of the “haves and have-nots”, to which his reply was, “so be it”.

    Could someone please produce the names of Oklahoma Administrators that asked for the specific changes in VERSION II of the A-F Report that has alleged by the SDE???

    Could someone please explain to me why it takes more than 20 pages and multiple complicated formulas created by statisticians to attempt to clearly, accurately and fairly explain true meaning of A-B-C-D-F?????. Give a parent a page or two of the A-F and ask them how clear, accurate and fair it appears to them. Janet said she only approved of this report card (used in just a few states) to let parents see a true picture of how schools are really doing.

    I close by suggesting to Superintendents, Principals and Teachers to ask parents the MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION about the education of their child, “Does your child come home from school happy, involved and engaged at his/her PUBLIC SCHOOL?

    Somewhere in this new world of Janet-Education where increased paperwork for educators, lack of communication and direction by the SDE; in some cases, no communication at all from the SDE, and the creation of new reforms that no one seems to see the true purpose for and SDE cannot explain. We have lost the most important question we should be asking ourselves, “IS WHAT WE ARE DOING BEST FOR OUR CHILDREN?????”

    I would suggest Janet-Education does not believe this question. One example; someone please explain to me then why Janet-Education would allow students and parents believe they had passed Biology I in May based on the past 3 years of scoring and then in September announce the requirements to pass had been increased 10 questions? That seems like changing the rules for winning a game after the game is completed.

    There are students who have enrolled in Oklahoma Colleges and completed two months college work and in the past two weeks have been informed that the adults running their education have changed their minds and decided you are now a FAILURE, when they told you in May you were a High School Graduate and allowed you to wear that cap and gown, walk across the stage and get that Diploma.


    Janet, please leave the education of kids to educators and we will leave the cleaning of kids teeth to you.

    As an educator, I apologize to students, parents and fellow educators for this mockery of our beloved profession that has occurred.

    Janet, can you apologize??


  2. Kirby Lehman
    October 12, 2013 at 10:30 am

    I cannot begin to tell you how much I appreciate the data based comments, the lucidity, and the overall quality of your writing. (Yes, in addition to being a former activist superintendent, I was an English major and, later, an English teacher.)

    Thank you for your research and comments.

    Kirby Lehman


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