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Conjuring Enemies

October 18, 2013

Since it’s Fall Break across much of the state, I assume many of you have been at home, responsibly playing the new SDE A-F Report Cards Drinking Game for the last couple of days. Scores changed again… shot! Phone call to the SDE that doesn’t get past the switchboard…shot! Actual response to a question from a live person at the SDE…double! Superintendent Barresi responded today to the frustration of those who have been watching school report card grades flip back and forth like a metronome over the last 48 hours:

***SDE*** A-F Report Card Update

OK State Dept of Ed sent this bulletin at 10/18/2013 09:42 AM CDT

School districts and schools now have access to review their A-F report card and double check their data and calculations. I understand the experience of the past few days has been frustrating for school and district administrators. I am deeply sorry for the resulting delay and confusion, as are all of us at the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

A commitment to transparency can have an embarrassing downside. That was certainly the case when the grades were posted Oct. 16 even as they continued to undergo several versions. A last-minute correction in the calculation resulted in errors that subsequently had to be fixed. To ensure transparency in this process, the decision was made to leave the grades up as they were modified.

Fortunately, the problems were addressed and corrected during the designated 10-day window for schools, districts and the OSDE to check for errors. That doesn’t excuse the snafu, but only explains it — and we thank you for your patience.

Because of the delay, districts and schools have an extended period, until 10 a.m. Oct 28, to review and seek corrections on their prescribed grades. After that point, the proposed grades will be brought before the State Board of Education at the board’s Oct. 29 meeting for final approval.

Some opponents of school accountability will no doubt seize on the recent delay as yet another reason to postpone, reconfigure or simply trash the A-F report cards. Oklahoma parents, students and all interested parties can rest assured that will not happen. The annual grades are critical to heightening accountability, arming parents with important information and furthering the simple proposition that all children can learn.

Janet Barresi

State Superintendent of Public Instruction

The first thing I want to address is the word snafu – but I don’t have to. Rob Miller has that one for me. As Rob does, I think the acronym fits, but maybe not as much as another one.

Her flippant remark about the embarrassing downside notwithstanding, what I really want to address is the last paragraph, and I’m going to do so sentence-by-sentence.

Some opponents of school accountability will no doubt seize on the recent delay as yet another reason to postpone, reconfigure or simply trash the A-F report cards.

The frustration that has been expressed over A-F Report Cards, going back at least 18 months, is not a product of opponents of school accountability. As I’ve said before, politicians such as Barresi like to pretend they invented accountability. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Test scores have been made available online since the late 1990s. The 1500 point API scale was in place prior to No Child Left Behind and had an 11-year run before being replaced by the A-F Report Cards. Only the current occupants of the SDE feel the need to keep those reports offline now, and only they could justify such action in the name of transparency.

Remember, after last year’s catastrophe, the report cards were completely reconfigured by legislators. One of these was Clark Jolley, who went to Jeb Bush’s conference (at which Barresi also presented) this week to praise their impact on accountability. Nor was it the Education Establishment or rogue liberals that she often invokes as enemies authoring studies blasting both last year’s version of the report cards and now this year’s. It was researchers at Oklahoma’s flagship universities – OU and OSU.

Schools welcome accountability. They want a light to shine on how they are performing, knowing full well that what will be seen won’t always be flattering. The people who lead and work in those schools just want this to be done in a way that is accurate.

Oklahoma parents, students and all interested parties can rest assured that will not happen.

I don’t think that is hers to promise. Last year, the State Board of Education surprised everybody by postponing the release of the A-F Report Cards. That was followed by pointed words from Barresi for pretty much everybody. There could be more changes by the legislature. There could be an unsuccessful primary next summer. Who knows what will happen? I don’t know about you, but I feel neither rested nor assured.

The annual grades are critical to heightening accountability, arming parents with important information and furthering the simple proposition that all children can learn.

The system arms (not a fan of the choice of words here, but we’ll go with it) people with misinformation. Schools are trying to figure out how to get the highest possible grades rather than focusing on children. Even worse, the rules have been different each of the last three years, and the rules for 2012-13 weren’t completed until students had gone home for the summer. The discrepancy between student performance and the overall grades is even more telling.

Reformers such as Barresi didn’t concoct all by themselves the ideal that every child can learn. This has been the focus of teacher prep programs for decades. It means something coming from career educators. It means little coming from politicians such as Barresi, Jolley, and Bush.

Is this a snafu? Yes. To be more accurate, I’d call it fubar.

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  1. Rob miller
    October 18, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    I’m not a drinker but I love the idea. I do recall playing a similar game in college involving the Bob Newhart show.

    Did you how she slipped in the piece about the ten day window being for schools, districts, and the OSDE? That’s just not true. Otherwise, we would be chasing a moving target. How would we know when the real final reports were up. Are they allowed to make changes in the last five minutes before confirming the report? I can understand them making corrections to individual district and site reports based on appeals, but to say this correction window is also for them is disingenuous.

    SNAFU, FUBAR, CF, AND BOHICA—all fit this scenario.

    Like

  2. October 18, 2013 at 11:04 pm

    I resent the phrase “arming parents with important information.” This is clearly language intended to foster distrust and antagonism between parents and their schools.

    Like

  3. ragenacage
    October 19, 2013 at 1:09 am

    Thank you!

    I talked myself out of sending an email to Barresi today on the way to our football game in Norman. Her comment about “arming parents” is precisely the evidence to why we can’t get people to be teachers!!! Heck, I have two children who want to teach and coach, and I’m discouraging it.

    Also…Our small southwestern Oklahoma high school with a majority-minority, 75% low economic status student body received a 92 – A- on our A-F Report Card (after receiving a 93, 87, 90, and 91). Big Whoopee. I want to tell her to take that A and stick it in her ear!

    I don’t need a report card to tell me if we’re doing our job at Frederick High School. I don’t sit and wonder when the A-F is coming out so I can find out what we need to do better. I know what we need to do better. That’s why they hired me. If I don’t know, they need to fire me, or I need to quit.

    Thanks for saying and posting and publishing what we all in education want to say. Thank you so much.

    Randy Biggs Principal Frederick High School

    Like

  1. November 13, 2013 at 9:26 pm
  2. September 29, 2014 at 10:04 pm
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