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Stuck in the Middle with A-F Report Cards

October 17, 2013 5 comments

Let’s all sit around this Stealer’s Wheel (link embedded if you’re not of a certain age) and discuss the “clowns to the left” of us and “jokers to the right,” that have come to us in the form of the people responsible for our letter grades. It has taken quite a process for us to reach this point. Let’s review.

In 2012, the first A-F grades were set to be released by the State Department of Education, then tabled by the State Board. An OCU researcher showed that the majority of difference in grades could be attributed to socioeconomic factors. Then and OU/OSU study found that the grades lacked, among other things, something that researchers like to call statistical validity.

The legislature then decided to re-write the rules for the report cards. In fact, Oklahoma’s own Clark Jolley is set to present on our A-F Report Cards in all their glory today at Jeb Bush’s education summit. It’s such a big deal that he can be seen here making last minute preparations at Fenway Park last night.

Yesterday, when the grades were finally released, they looked a little high. Thirty minutes later, the SDE adjusted them, and they looked really low. Several schools received the explanation that the people plugging numbers into the formula had inadvertently mistaken the top quartile of last year’s test-takers for the bottom quartile. (Ironically, it was the math scores the y had miscalculated.) And they had fixed the scores. And the grades were final.

The emails actually told administrators that the grades were final.

Then last night, I started receiving messages from people telling me that the grades had changed again. Now, they were somewhere in the middle of the first two iterations.

It takes months to calculate the grades, but only minutes to re-calculate them? And then a few hours to do it again – this time with no new explanation?

If anyone has ever doubted the idea that the biggest problem with A-F Report Cards is how easy they are to manipulate, this should be the day they stop. As Rob Miller says, the report cards are DOA.

I don’t know what we’ll find today. It’s possible that by the time I post this to my blog, the grades will have changed again. I doubt anybody will ask Senator Jolley about this at his presentation today. It doesn’t fit the narrative that Jeb and his merry band of reformers have brought accountability to a place where none previously existed.

What I do know is that superintendents, principals, and teachers have their heads on a swivel. The lack of usefulness in these grades should do nothing to detract from the fact that hard working educators all over the state do their best for kids every day.

That’s my narrative. Now. In 30 minutes. And into the night.

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