The Duncan Banner

November 7, 2013

Waurika reacts to state standards

Jeff Kaley
The Duncan Banner

WAURIKA — In 2010, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush spoke to educators in Oklahoma touting the A-F Report Card system as the premier tool for holding school districts and instructors accountable for student academic performance.

Bush said Oklahoma needed education reform and the A-F Report Card was the best model for student improvement, determining which students need remediation and giving parents a way to judge if their children are receiving quality education.

One of Bush’s key supporters was Janet Barresi, who was one year away from being elected Oklahoma’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction. After being elected in 2011, Barresi announced the A-F Report Card would be the standard for accountability in the state’s public school system.

Now, roll the film to July 2013 and a vote by the Florida State Board of Education that continued a process of removing the A-F Report Card as that state’s standard. That vote continues Florida’s transition away from the A-F model to an accountability system known as Common Core State Standards.

Back in Oklahoma, however, public schools are into another year of using the A-F Report Card that was pushed by Barresi — and the outcry from educators is reaching a flash point. The temperature rose to a new level in late October, when the state department delayed the release of the final results for the 2012-13 school year until they were released on Wednesday,

As the new results are becoming public knowledge, educators around the state continue criticizing the system; some suggest the 2012-13 results be tossed out, others favor simply ignoring the results. And the reaction to Barresi’s handling of the accountability issue has prompted Broken Arrow Superintendent Jarod Mendenhall to call on school administrators statewide to move on a vote of “no confidence” in Barresi, who is running for reelection.

Waurika Superintendent Roxie Terry is among the educators questioning the A-F system, wondering why the Oklahoma state department hung its hat on an accountability model that was already in question before it was adopted.

“A majority of states who started using the A-F Report Card have moved away from it,” Terry noted. “Jeb Bush came (to Oklahoma) a couple of years ago and convinced people that Florida’s system was wonderful, and now Florida has changed almost everything.

“In Oklahoma, we’re following a plan that’s proven not to work, and it’s thoroughly frustrating for educators.”

Noting the state’s results were to have been released in late October and have since been delayed until some time this month, Terry explained some of the glitches that occurred in the process, which requires students to take achievement tests over the course of one day.

“The results were released to the schools for review and to note mistakes or corrections,” he said. “But the scores completely changed from one letter grade to another. In six days of the review, the final test scores changed six times.

“(Educators and administrators) said they were finding mistakes and errors in what had already been reviewed. There are still many mistakes that are not found yet and won’t be until the scores are officially released.”

In a letter to administrators dated Oct. 28, the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration (CCOSA) revealed that research departments at two Oklahoma universities “identified three areas of significant concern with the state’s new accountability system for public schools.”

CCOSA and the United Suburban School Association (USSA) issued a press release saying, “We have no confidence in the state’s broken school accountability system. Therefore, we will not seek a delay in release of any grade reports.”

The release continued, “Two reports and one technical addendum from researchers with the education policy centers at our state’s two research universities confirm that confidence in the school report cards would be misplaced.”

Terry said the upcoming release of the 2012-13 scores “is basically a worthless piece of paper.”

The preliminary review, he asserted, “Shows how unreliable and inaccurate the results are. When two major universities say it’s inaccurate, why are we using those results?”

While some superintendents have been sending letters to parents explaining the problems with the A-F Grade Card system, Terry said, “I’m not going to do that. I think our people (in Waurika) are intelligent enough to know by watching TV news and newspaper reports in which so many people are saying the system is inaccurate.”

For his part, Terry will support dropping the A-F Report Card for another system that gives a more accurate view of student progress and district accountability.

“I wish we had something that we, as educators, can use,” he said. “The state department wanted to make it easy for the public to understand (performance of educators), but the purpose of testing is to give educators a method to improve our curriculum with test scores.

“The A-F system puts more emphasis on finding a letter grade for the school than on how a certain student is doing.”

— Jeff Kaley is managing editor of the Waurika News-Democrat