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.