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The Daily Ardmoreite
  • Schools question accuracy of A-F grading system

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  • Area school officials are "highly frustrated" as the State Department of Education attempts to roll out the second year of A-F report cards for schools.
    Because of calculation errors, the State Department of Education has decided to delay the public release of the grades for each district.
    However, some local educators question whether accuracy is possible at all with the current system.
    "Parents deserve to know how their school is doing, but they also deserve an accurate representation of the school. These grades aren't it," explains Greenville superintendent Jason Midkiff.
    Schools had until Monday to request that the state correct or otherwise verify their new school grade cards. The SDE said it had received 1,133 such requests since Oct. 16, when the state first posted schools' preliminary grade information, and gave local schools 10 days to review them.
    However, area school officials have seen grades changed six to 10 times since then by the SDE due to calculation glitches. Since scores were changed Friday, schools were not given much time to review the actual final grades from the SDE.
    SDE spokesman Phil Bacharach says school grade cards were, in fact, recalculated Friday and adjusted again shortly thereafter, resulting in grade increases at 300 schools and grade decreases at 87.
    "Apparently, there were some changes made that had to do with data verification requests made by districts, and the removal of second-time test-takers that had not been removed by the districts," he says. "There were some additional fixes Saturday morning to something Friday night that should not have occurred."
    After the numerous calculation glitches, State Superintendent Dr. Janet Barresi issued an apology to educators for "delay and confusion" in the review process. On Friday, she said her department needed as many as two more weeks before asking the State Board of Education to finalize the report cards and release them to the public.
    "In an abundance of caution, the State Department of Education is going to take additional time to guarantee absolute, 100-percent accuracy of the grades," Barresi said.
    "Despite two periods in which school districts were to certify assessment results as well as the current review underway, our assessment office is still receiving a number of corrections and changes. To say this has been frustrating is putting it mildly. The A-F report cards are too critical a tool for parents and communities to accept anything less than quality."
    At Ardmore City Schools, data was found to be incorrect. On Tuesday, the day after changes were due to SDE, administrators were still waiting on clarifications for things they needed know in order to check the data presented.
    "We're not finished asking questions and getting answers," says Ardmore Superintendent Sonny Bates. "If they're going to put out a product, they need to make sure it's a good product with all the "i's" dotted. We've been appealing to Dr. Barresi to get a second look."
    Page 2 of 2 - Yet, a larger issue is the system itself, which has received a lot of criticism since it debuted last school year.
    Last year, education policy researchers at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University released a joint study that said the A-F scores "fall short." With the changes to calculations made by the state legislature and SDE, the researchers have released a new report.
    "Our analysis and conclusions were reviewed by two nationally renowned testing and evaluation experts who concurred with our claims. Subsequently, the state made some changes to the system, but the changes do not address the flaws; in fact, the likelihood is that they made them worse," the study read.
    Area educators think this research is worth considering.
    "We have people who are experts at this saying these grades are meaningless," Midkiff explains. "International experts are recommending that it be scrapped. That's not school superintendents gripping over grades. OU, OSU and (national accountability expert) Robert Linn don't have a stake in this."
    Issues found by this year's study include an average of three to six test answers separating A and F schools, some D and F schools scored better in math than B and C schools, and A and B schools are least effective for minority and poor children.
    "There's no achievement difference between schools," Midkiff says. "If a parent wants to look at this grade and sees an A school, it needs to be an A school for everyone."
    Deadlines or not, area educators will continue to look for solutions to the issues that have arisen with the A-F report cards.
    "I've talked to several superintendents," Bates says. "Everyone is open to working with the State Department. I just wish [Barresi] would let us. It's not good when professionals can't work together for the good of the kids."
    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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