KGOU

State Releases School Letter Grades Using New Formula

Feb 28, 2019

Oklahoma is one of 11 states that gives each school a letter grade. The State Board of Education approved and released school report cards using a new grading formula Thursday.

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Education, the new formula places more emphasis on changes in student performance, a welcome addition for many educators.

“We actually this time are measuring the same students, how they did from one grade to another,” explained Katherine Bishop, Vice President of the Oklahoma Education Association. Bishop represented the teachers’ union as part of the 95-member task force that helped create the new formula.

But Bishop has some qualms about the new formula.

“The new way that we are measuring students is a positive,” Bishop said. “It's unfortunate, though, that we're continuing to give our schools a single letter grade.”

The education department says the letter grades do not reflect a teacher’s “effect on student learning,” but, according to Bishop, receiving a low letter grade can demoralize teachers and administrators. Plus, measuring student growth will still be based on one-time test scores.

Parents can search for school report cards using a new interactive, online dashboard. The education department says the dashboard’s design de-emphasizes a school’s letter grade by also displaying each of the individual factors that make up the formula. In the coming weeks and months, the agency will also add what it calls “contextual” information, like teacher qualifications and per-pupil funding.

Another significant change is how students are categorized into federally-recognized subgroups based on disability, socioeconomic status, grasp of the English language and race.

“You could have a student who is falling into maybe three or four categories,” said Joy Hofmeister, Superintendent of Public Instruction. Hofmeister explained the old grading formula was  “double and triple counting only certain kids,” and skewing data. The new formula, Hofmeister said, will designate student into only one subgroup.

Additionally, each student subgroup now has its own performance targets based on the median test scores of the particular group. The “achievement” piece of the formula is now heavily weighted toward students reaching subgroup-specific targets, rather than proficiency.

Oklahoma’s A-F school grading system was enacted by the legislature in 2011 as an attempt to incentivize higher levels of college- and career-readiness. The 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced the Bush-era No Child Left Behind, gave states the opportunity to change how they evaluate schools.

Like No Child Left Behind, ESSA still requires states to identify low performing schools in order to give them additional resources. Under Oklahoma’s new grading system, the the bottom 5 percent of schools— about 90-- will automatically be given an “F”, making them eligible for federal dollars.