Report card day. The day students receive the ultimate feedback on their performance for the quarter, semester or year. For some, the day means presenting straight A’s or B’s to their parents with sheer joy, while for others it means having to explain the D minus they received in social studies class. Grading is a large part of evaluating students and demonstrating their comprehension and understanding over a subject with a scaled system.
Now, schools and teachers are getting to experience the potential joy or fear of report card day.
In 2011, Oklahoma implemented the A-F School Grading System, a system of evaluating student growth, academic growth and other components that go into preparing students for college and career readiness. The report cards were made to eliminate complex past systems that were overly complicated for parents and instead presents a simplified look at school performance in order to improve schools across the board.
The final grade is calculated using three primary evaluators, student performance (50 percent), overall student growth (25 percent) and
bottom growth (25 percent). A school can also earn up to 10 “bonus points” on the final grade through factors such as graduation rate, attendance, end-of-instructions performance and college entrance exams. All of the elements are then combined using various formulas for each aspect to create a number that falls into a scale from 0-110 (10 bonus points possible). Letter grades are then applied using the traditional grading scale used to evaluate students on their report cards (increments of 10 determine each tier of letter grade).
In the 2014-2015 school year, 212 schools were given an A, 597 schools received a B, 546 received a C, 333 schools received a D and 183 were given an F grade.
The system has been criticized by legislators and school administrators. Even State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister has called the system unreliable, calling for its reevaluation (though she has not committed to completing eliminating the letter grade system). The emphasis on test scores has also been questioned across the state, with some saying the grades encourage “teaching to the test.” Dickson Superintendent Jeff Colclasure said that having a single system for all schools puts some districts, particularly smaller districts, at a disadvantage.
“It’s been difficult for a one size fits all system,” he said. “Different sizes of schools all come into play and smaller schools can have a harder time with testing information being consistent.”
Colclasure said in smaller class sizes, students account for a higher percentage of the overall grade, leaving less room for error and potentially skewing numbers.
“If a school has 50 students per class each counts as two percent of the overall grade, where in a larger school, each students accounts for less of the overall percentage,” Colclasure said.
Ardmore City Schools Superintendent Sonny Bates said the Ardmore district uses a combination of the A-F score and NWEA to determine growth within the schools and find the weaknesses and strengths of the schools. Bates said the current system lacks consistency due to the differentiating test and the failure of the system to recognize trends overtime.
“It changes and the tests change so you don’t get consistency year to year,” Bates said. “It really needs to be reevaluated and become a long term system, instead of a snapshot look.”
Bates said while the A-F report card gives a quick look at schools, parents ultimately hold the power to communicate with teachers and administrators to see how their individual student is performing.
“The wholesale grade shouldn’t be their concern if it’s not effecting their individual student,” he said. “I hope we can see parents more and work on individual guidelines more with parents.”
Bates said that implementing more parent teacher conferences would allow parents to be more involved in their students academic success and allow parents more exposure to the components that lead to helping children grow and learn.
The emphasis on test scores, however, is being reevaluated in the State Legislature, with House Bill 2957 and House Bill 3218 both being passed earlier this year. House Bill 2957 eliminated the quantitative (test scores) aspect of teacher evaluations, while House Bill 3218 reduced the number of tests students are required to take and has sparked the need for the state to create a new accountability system.
The A-F system will need an overhaul due to a large portion of its formula being tied to test scores and student growth. The 2015-2016 report card will come out this fall with numbers based on the current model and 2016-2017 will serve as a transition year while the Legislators determine a new system for school performance. A new assessment must be in place by Jan. 1, 2017, according to House Bill 3218. The goal of the bill, which reduced the total number of tests between third grade and a student’s senior year from 26 to 18 tests, is to eliminate the pressure to “teach to the test” and allow legislators to reevaluate “test culture.”
With school assessment methods being reconsidered at the state level, questions are left regarding how the accountability and performance system will change in the future. Colclasure said that like in evaluating teachers, schools should be evaluated based on what makes schooling possible, how the teachers teach in the classroom.
“Qualitative tells you more when watching a teacher teach,” he said.
One thing is clear about the accountability system in schools, whether you’re a school awaiting to see the state’s evaluation of your students’ performances or the individual student waiting to see your grades from the semester; report card day is always right around the corner.