The Edmond Sun

October 27, 2012

Taking a 2nd look at A-F grading

Patty Miller
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — The Oklahoma State Department of Education released the A-F grading system for Oklahoma schools Thursday. The grades are easy enough to understand, a simple A-F grading scale, but how they were arrived at may not be quite that easy for some, that is unless one keeps reading after the final grade on the report card is given.

The grading system and how it has been implemented has been bandied about for the past month, but for some people confusion, rather than understanding is the name of the game.

Close to 1,750 schools received grades on the first-time A-F School Report Cards.

The report cards released Thursday represented 1 percent of schools with a grade of an F, 8 percent a D, 34 percent C, 48 percent B, 9 percent A.

Both Deer Creek/Edmond and Edmond school districts scored well.

In Deer Creek all of the elementary schools with the exception of one school received an A. Rose Union Elementary was the only school to receive a B. The middle school and the high school both received A’s.  

“We are always proud to lead the way in education and this is just one more indication of the quality teachers and administrators we have in Deer Creek,” said School Board President David Miller. “I believe it shows the involvement of our community and the leadership of the board.”

In Edmond Public Schools, three elementary schools, two middle schools and all three high schools earned A’s. The rest with the exception of one elementary school earned a grade of B. Ida Freeman Elementary received the district’s only grade of C.

“We always looking for ways for our schools to improve,” said Jamie Underwood, Edmond School District Board of Education president. “I am confident we will continue to stress academic success in our schools as we continue to prepare our students to be successful.

“Our goals haven’t changed. We will still continue to provide quality instruction so our students can achieve success. We will look at areas we can improve on and use this information to make sure we are giving our students every possible opportunity to grow their knowledge.”

Edmond’s West Field Elementary received a B grade.

Principal Cara Jernigan said, “We are one of the schools that if there were an adjustment in the configuration for the bottom quartile, then we would have received an A.

“However, we are going to continue to persevere and consistently provide individual supports through our RTI (Response to Intervention program). We are going to continue to maintain our focus on knowing every child by name and need and continuing to have high expectations for all students.

“Our teachers are committed to helping every child be successful. My personal opinion is that the ‘D’ we received in the bottom quartile does not accurately reflect the extent to which our teachers provide support for our students.

“West Field is blessed to have an entire staff dedicated to educating the whole child. We will continue to strive to maintain our Great Expectations Model School status, and we are currently in the process of becoming a Tier 3 OTISS (Oklahoma Tiered Intervention System of Support for academics and behavior) Model School for the State of Oklahoma.”

Lynne Rowley, executive director of elementary education, said focus has been increased across the grade levels in other areas in addition to reading and math.

“We are going to be utilizing our district science and social studies content specialists to work with teachers across the grade levels,” Rowley said. “Staff has been reassigned in one school.”

Explanation of A-F School Report Cards categories

2011 Performance: 33 percent of the overall grade is based on the Oklahoma School Testing Program assessments in grades three through 12. Performance Index is awarded to student test scores based on the proficiency level achieved according to a rubric adopted by the State Department of Education. The law passed by the Oklahoma Legislature has stipulated the grade percentages be counted this way.

Overall Student Growth: 17 percent of the grade is based on annual student learning gains as measured by Oklahoma’s annual standardized assessments in reading and mathematics in grades three through eight; and Algebra I and English II end-of-instruction tests.

Overall Student Growth compares students’ pre- and post-scores with grades for two consecutive full years in the same school.

Bottom Quartile Student Growth: 17 percent is based on the growth of the bottom 25 percent of students as measured by Oklahoma’s annual standardized assessments in reading and mathematics in grades three through eight; and Algebra I and English II end-of-instruction tests for the lowest 25 percent of students in the school.

“I support a high growth factor being applied to our general population of students,” said Edmond’s Superintendent David Goin in a recent letter to board members he shared with The Sun. “However, applying the same standard in grading ‘lowest achieving quartile’ students’ performance is sometimes unfair to students, teachers and schools, especially at the elementary level.”

Goin said a significant number of the district’s lowest quartile students have serious handicapping conditions, and for these students growth is expected; however, due to the serious nature of their conditions, these often are children for whom even more modest growth should be celebrated — not penalized.

“The standard for this group of children must be reassessed,” Goin said. “Yes, we expect challenging growth for all Edmond students, but the standard must be reasonable.”

He went on to say there is a structural problem with current formula calculations.

If the Bottom Quartile has fewer than 30 students scoring in either the math or reading scores, then the number of students scoring will be added together for the final number. If there are no numbers in the category on the report card then that means the number was less than 30.

In a high-performing school you will have a smaller percentage of students in limited knowledge and unsatisfactory categories which can result in a lower grade.

Whole School Performance: 33 percent of the final grade is based on whole school improvement, based on a variety of factors including attendance, dropout rate and parent and community engagement.

“For Edmond, out of 15 elementary schools, 10 of which are designated as ‘Reward Schools,’ only three achieves a school grade of ‘A’ under the current system. Two of the three are small schools that will receive the ‘A’ by virtue of the fact that their lowest quartile grade will not be included due to their small student population. The small schools’ GPAs are calculated by entering their ‘whole school growth’ grade twice, once in place of the ‘lowest quartile growth’ grade. Obviously, we would expect the general population of students (whole school) to achieve a greater span of growth than the lowest achieving quartile.

“Several larger Edmond elementary schools that receive the same category grades as the two small schools received a school grade of ‘B’ rather than ‘A.’”

Goin went on to say the general public will not understand this and may conclude that all schools that received an overall grade of “A” are better than schools receiving a “B.” Either that or they’ll not accept as credible the grade assigned.

“While the report cards certainly can be used to assist us in setting goals for improvement, the grades assigned to schools must accurately and consistently reflect quality,” Goin said.

During the State School Board meeting Thursday Superintendent Janet Barresi said one consideration to look at during a later date would be to adopt pluses and minuses to be used with the letter grades. | 341-2121