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Just Plain Nonsense

November 7, 2013

Now they’re just making stuff up. Literally. The SDE doesn’t have a rule for calculating A-F grades for all possible ways a district can organize a school, so they’re making it up as they go. Check out the Guthrie Public Schools home page. It starts with a press release from the district:

This release of grades for GPS also comes with a letter of explanation for the grades at Cotteral, Central and Fogarty from Dr. Janet Barresi, State Superintendent. In the letter, she notes the unique grade-center configuration does not fit into the legislation as written. The letter is the product of several meetings with GPS administrators and department of Education staff. Barresi and GPS Superintendent Dr. Mike Simpson had a face-to-face meeting two weeks ago to discuss different options for GPS. Those issues were again revisited last week as Barresi met with GPS students and staff. Unfortunately, no options were deemed legally acceptable for this school year. As an alternative, Barresi offered the letter of explanation.

According to Simpson, “There has been a lot said about this process and the labels that come with it. I was vocal last year about the irrelevance of the grades for Cotteral, Central and Fogarty Elementary schools. I communicated to the senate authors of the bill during the last legislative session but obviously it fell on deaf ears. Now we are continuing to work with any person or entity that can help. Senator A. J. Griffin has been a vocal supporter of our district and an advocate of exploring alternative grading options for Guthrie Public Schools legislatively.” 

Simpson went on to say, “I don’t want the irrelevance of grades for three of our sites to overshadow my concerns with the grades of our other sites. Much of the reforms we continue to put in place locally will not surface in these grades this soon. We will continue to evaluate the results along with the additional measures we have in place. Included in that data are student ACT scores along with our newest tool, MAP testing. MAP is an acronym for Measuring Academic Performance which is a highly respected measure of student growth. MAP results will allow our teachers to better monitor our student progress throughout the school year. It gives us a greater diagnostic of our student mastery of the new Oklahoma Academic Standards. The support given by the LEAD initiative and our relationship with the University of Virginia shows our recognition of these issues as well as the need to at instruction differently.

Then a letter to GPS parents from the SDE:

As you have no doubt noted, the “grade” received by your school is lower than you had expected. I am writing you to explain how this grade was derived.

The A-F Grade Card is largely derived by students’ performance on assessments and on their academic growth over time. In Oklahoma, students are not assessed until third grade. Because your school district has a unique alignment of grade-band centers that do not include a third and fourth grade, we must derive a different method for reporting performance of these particular sites.

In other words, the grade was awarded based on the results of student test scores for a site not connected to your child’s school. There is also no opportunity for the site to be graded based on growth of students academically through the school year.

I agree that this does not make sense. It does not reflect the direct instructional impact of teachers on your child’s performance. With last year’s report card, we had other factors at our disposal to yield a grade, but those data points were restricted by changes in grade-card legislation earlier this year. State and federal law requires me to report this to you in this fashion.

The letter was signed by Janet Barresi.

Why is the State Department of Education assigning grades that they admit make no sense? What I do like about this exchange – other than the fact that Barresi herself discredits the assigning of grades arbitrarily – is the fact that Guthrie has a plan for communicating legitimate information to parents.

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  1. November 13, 2013 at 9:26 pm
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