New method for grading Oklahoma schools has teachers and professors outraged
AT A GLANCE
Oklahoma School Report Card:
A – 9 percent
B – 48 percent
C – 34 percent
D – 8 percent
F – 1 percent
AT A GLANCE
Norman School Report Cards:
A - 6 schools
B – 9 schools
C – 7 schools
Oklahoma legislature’s new method of grading school effectiveness has drawn criticism from OU professors along with other Oklahoma teachers and school superintendents.
OU professors join other Oklahoma teachers and school superintendents in disagreement with the state’s new method of grading school effectiveness.
The Oklahoma State Department of Education released the first school report cards that grade all Oklahoma public schools on an A-F scale on October 25, according to the Norman Transcript.
The grades are based off grade-level performance standards, graduation and dropout rates and attendance rates for elementary schools, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s website.
The purpose of this new grading system is to create accountability and transparency among schools while making the report simple enough for parents to understand, according to the department’s website. It is meant to empower school administrators, parents, classroom teachers and citizens to make informed choices and identify ways to strengthen and improve schools to benefit Oklahoma students.
“It all comes down to how do we keep schools accountable for educating children,” said Teresa DeBacker, associate dean of OU’s Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education and a professor of psychology.
Many teachers, professors and school administrators, however, disagree with this new method, DeBacker said.
There’s a lot of controversy about how to measure school effectiveness, she said. When students come into a classroom with different levels knowledge, different learning rates and different testing skills, it’s unfair to measure the teacher’s ability and judge the school from one test the students take at the end of the year, she said.
“How do you reduce that complexity down to ‘they get a B?’” DeBacker said.
Teachers might be “phenomenally effective,” but if their students are coming in learning English as a second language or if they have intellectual disabilities, their scores are going to drop and the school’s ratings are going to “get slammed,” said Lawrence Baines, chair of OU’s department of instructional leadership and academic curriculum.
“Sometimes I think that the state forgets that schools should be about helping children, not punishing teachers,” Baines said.
Most teachers and professors see this as an extremely complex task, but lawmakers want a method of judging schools that is simple and easy for parents to understand, DeBacker said.
“These report cards are user-friendly, straightforward and fair,” said Janet Barresi, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, in an article in the Norman Transcript. “It is high time for parents to have access to this information as they seek to make the best educational choices for their children. Parents have a basic right to this information, and they should be able to find it easily.”
This simplicity isn’t necessarily better, DeBacker said.
Another issue with this method is that poorly funded schools who can’t afford the same technology, textbooks and teachers as other schools will get bad grades, DeBacker said.
“A lot of this comes down to funding; we’re testing but not investing,” DeBacker said. “Now, we’re publicly printing the report cards—humiliating the schools while withholding what they need to do their jobs.”
Other states have taken to this same method of ranking schools with a report card, and it has been an “expensive disaster everywhere,” Baines said.
“Everyone kows that the poorest schools are struggling and the richest schools are prospering,” Baines said.
In Ohio, zero high-poverty schools are considered “A” quality, while 95 percent of the schools in Ohio’s richest neighborhoods are considered “A” or “B” quality, Baines said.
“Despite the clear connection between poverty and achievement, current policies favor A-rated schools over F-rated schools,” Baines said in an email.