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Education

October 28, 2012

Labyer gives feedback on A-F grading system

DUNCAN — Duncan Superintendent Sherry Labyer admits to being disappointed with the grades given by the Oklahoma State Department of Education to some of the Duncan schools. But Labyer said it’s the A-F grading system itself she has a problem with, not accountability.

On Thursday, the Oklahoma State Board of Education approve the A-F grading system, which gave each school in Oklahoma a letter grade, as if receiving a report card. In Stephens County, most schools received an A, B or C, although there were three that received D’s.

“I’m disappointed the State Board of Education went ahead and followed through with approving the grading system,” Labyer said. “It’s not because we’re afraid of accountability. It’s because of the complexity of it.

“It counts our lowest quarterly students three times, and only counts our upper quarterly students once. I don’t think that’s a fair representation of our student achievement.”

Two Duncan elementary schools (Mark Twain and Woodrow Wilson) received D grades on their report cards. Most other Duncan schools received B’s from the State Department of Education.

The grading system has been a controversial item, even within the State Board of Education. The state school board tabled the item Oct. 8 to continue discussions about the grading system, which was then approved Thursday with a unanimous vote.

Labyer said some of the grades were disappointing, but the school district would continue to strive for excellence in student achievement.

“We’re going to continue to keep our focus,” she said. “We won’t let this deter us. We want to make better grades, but we want to make meaningful better grades.”

She said the school district will continue to introduce more science, technology, engineering and math into the schools. And staying with the Career Pathways program the school district is piloting, Labyer expects schools to work toward having students college and career ready.

Labyer wants to increase parent and community involvement in the schools. By increasing community involvement, she’s hoping to make a stronger run toward student success in the classrooms.

“I want to see what we can do as a community,” Labyer said. “We’re not focusing on the grades. We’re focusing on student achievement.”

When it comes to discussing the grades given by the State Department of Education, Labyer welcomes parents to visit with her and other administrators.

“The grades will be transparent,” Labyer said.

Schools are ready to improve their scores, but Labyer isn’t sure how easy the process will be.

Labyer said state uses the PASS Objectives standards for student achievement, but the national and local standards are Common Core Standards, which the school district will fully adopt by 2014.

“I have some concerns,” Labyer said. “The tests aren’t the same. I don’t know how it will impact student achievement. Common Core is a better measure. It’s teaching to mastery.”

Despite being disappointed with the grades and the use of the grading system, Labyer said the school district welcomes accountability, as long as it’s an accurate representation of the schools and the district.

“Most superintendents in Oklahoma are not afraid of accountability,” Labyer said. “We’re just asking for a straight forward accountability system.”

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