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Accountability in Duncan Schools has always been a priority and transparency is one of the cornerstones for doing business in our district. In May of 2011, the Oklahoma Legislature passed H. B. 1456 to grade school performance on an A through F scale. At the time the law was passed, we did not completely understand the details of the grading system but fully intended to follow the law and embrace the evaluation model to improve student achievement. H.B. 1456 was intended to provide a system that would be useful to parents, educators, and students. It was to be a fair and equitable model that fairly assesses students through high stakes testing in grades 3 through 12. Unfortunately, the A-F grading system has failed to meet the intentions of the legislators responsible for the passage of HB 1456.
A testing debacle occurred in the spring of 2013 that negatively impacted our students testing experience. The testing company servers crashed, and students were “kicked off” the testing sites. The crash forced some students to completely start over while others were interrupted as long as three hours.
Because A-F grades are based on spring testing, educators and other professionals became frustrated and concerned about the affect this would have on overall school performance. Researchers from Oklahoma University and Oklahoma State University issued the following statement, “This year has borne witness to numerous testing protocol failures that corrupted the limited data used to calculate a grade for schools.” They further stated, “The data we have analyzed demonstrates quite dramatically that the letter grade system for school evaluation has very little meaning and certainly cannot be used to legitimately inform high-stakes decisions.”
On October 16th, Duncan Schools’ letter grades were issued. Since that time, our letter grades at each site have changed nine times. Some additional challenges we experienced include: cut scores in science and writing were changed after our students took the test, some students writing assessments have been re-graded, incorrect demographic information has been discovered, several reporting deadlines have been altered, and multiple testing messages from the Oklahoma State Department of Education have changed. In addition, OSDE informed districts they may send disputed writing tests back to the testing company to be graded a second time at a possible cost of $125/test.
Until research proves otherwise, I, as superintendent of Duncan Schools, will stand with OU/OSU researchers, professional organizations such as the Cooperative Council of School Administrators, and highly respected educators in our state and agree that the present accountability system is invalid, unreliable, and not relevant in assessing our students.