Stillwater News Press

October 9, 2012

Payne County school administrators glad State Board of Education delayed grading plan

By Mark Rountree
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — Payne County school administrators expressed relief after the State Board of Education postponed the release of new evaluation standards that assign A-F grades to Oklahoma’s 1,750 public schools.

The state board delayed it decision until Oct. 25 after administrators, teachers and parents raised concerns about the plan and the formula used to determine the letter grades.

Stillwater Public Schools Superintendent Ann Caine said she was pleased with the postponement.

“This will give the state more time to answer questions we have asked and make the corrections we have submitted,” Caine said ... “It’s not that we’re opposed to accountability. We welcome it. But when 200-plus administrators oppose it, it’s a signal to slow down.”

Cushing Superintendent Koln Knight said his district wants to be accountable.

“We are just concerned about how a few people in the state department have implemented it,” Knight said.

He said he was concerned about the lack of input from schools.

Stillwater Public Schools Director of Secondary Curriculum Becky Szlichta said the grading system, which replaces the annual performance index as a school evaluation scale, is new and must be more fully understood.

“We want to be able to understand the measuring stick and how to interpret the results,” she said.

Knight said the plan does not accurately account for the progress students are making and more factors should be considered other than how many students are on individual educational plans and those who receive free and reduced-price lunches.

“I am concerned that it is not an evaluation of instruction,” Knight said. “I think schools are concerned that it doesn’t reflect instructional growth instead of school demographics.”

Lee Denney, R-Cushing, co-authored the bill, to simplify the school evaluation process. It was ratified in spring 2011.

“Everyone understands about A-F,” Denney said. Under the former index, schools could achieve a maximum score of 1,500. Denney said a letter grade is easier for parents to understand, for example, rather than a score of 1,250.

Denney said school superintendents want a chance to review the data to understand why they were graded as they were.

“They should be privy to that information,” she said.

“This is something we need to work to get right,” Denney said about Monday’s postponement. “The board thought there are still questions.”

Denney said the delay wasn’t a bad idea.

Gay Washington, assistant superintendent of educational services at Stillwater Public Schools, said she was surprised by the postponement but that it indicated the state board recognized the need to re-evaluate the plan.

“Everyone is demanding transparency and collaboration,” Morrison Superintendent Jay Vernon said. “I don’t know that we haven’t been doing that at Morrison for a long time.”

Vernon said implementation of the new common core student standards, which will be fully in place in 2014, has been an impetus for changes in many areas of education.

“In order to get in line with common core, these are some of the hoops we have to jump through,” Vernon said.