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About the District Grades

November 18, 2013

Thursday night, Oklahoma superintendents received notice from the State Department of Education that districts grades had posted. Again.

As you’ll recall, a week earlier, the SDE had attempted a simultaneous release of the school and district grades. They came close, but decided to hold back the district grades for corrections. I haven’t looked district-by-district at the grades, but there appear to have been very few changes.

Grade

Nov. 6

Nov. 14

A

30

30

B

123

125

C

201

200

D

140

139

F

47

46

NA

2

3

I’m all for the SDE taking the time to get the grades “right.” I just find myself questioning what took so long. What did we not understand on November 6th – six months after students tested – that we had a better feel for on the 14th? Is it the data or the formula?

Never mind. Neither answer reassures me.

I ran correlations between the district grades and free/reduced lunch rates and found a similar, but slightly smaller relationship than what exists with the school grades.

Comparison to Poverty

Correlation

2013 District Grades

-0.52

2013 School Grades

-0.60

2012 District Grades

-0.44

As I said last week, district grades hide things that site grades reveal. It makes sense that the relationship between poverty and performance is stronger at the site level. On the other hand, the formula we are using this year shows the relationship more clearly than the one we used last year.

Add to that the number of districts whose overall grade is lower than any of their school grades, and we have more evidence of just how flawed the system is.

High schools seem to be performing better than elementary and middle schools, even though they’re teaching the same students those elementary and middle schools have prepared for them. The people tasked with calculating the grades seem to have problems understanding what it is they’re supposed to do with the data. Worst of all, the current testing company can’t get scores right (writing re-scores have still not been delivered).

And at the end of the day, we’re still just identifying which schools and districts teach high concentrations of poor kids. Congratulations, Oklahoma. Money well-spent.

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