Tahlequah Daily Press

October 9, 2012

TPS super questions viability of ‘report card’

By JOSH NEWTON
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — All but one I-35 school scored a C in the state’s new A-F grading system, the Tahlequah Public Schools superintendent said Monday evening.

Superintendent Lisa Presley told board members and TPS employees the preliminary data shows Tahlequah High School scored a B, while all other sites were tagged with C’s.

Presley attended a state school board meeting Monday in Oklahoma City, where board members ultimately delayed a vote to release the first report cards of the system until Oct. 25. Hundreds of state school superintendents have criticized the way the system calculates average state growth.

“We’re not fearful of accountability; that is not the issue,” Presley said. “The issue is how the report cards are being calculated.”

Presley said the formula was not initially transparent, and school district employees from around the state became concerned when they tried to determine the process.

“The report card is 33 percent of overall school growth, school performance,” said Presley. “Seventeen percent is how much students grow overall. Another 17 percent is how the lowest 25 percent of your students grow, and the last 33 percent is whole school performance. ...”

Presley said the proposed system includes four performance levels: advanced, satisfactory, unsatisfactory, and limited knowledge.

“Limited knowledge and unsatisfactory are not proficient,” she said.

If students improve beyond one performance level and exceed the state average growth, the district gains a point, Presley said; if they improve on state tests, but don’t reach a new performance level, the district gets nothing.

“The state average growth is calculated based on only the students who grew. They do not include students who didn’t [improve] or students who stay flat or didn’t perform as well,” said Presley. “They didn’t include all students in the state-average growth.”

Presley, as an example, said TPS has a student who improved 19 points in one area, but the district garnered no points because he or she didn’t score the state average of 44, which Presley called “inflated [improvement].”

“This was not transparent to us; we didn’t know what they meant by state-average growth,” said Presley. “The state department’s argument wa it’s in the rules, it’s in the regs, but one of the state school board members said, ‘I’ve read them, and it is not clear to me.’”

Presley said the state board’s attorney suggested the vote on releasing the grades be tabled until later this month so officials can compare the difference between averaging only students who improved, and averaging all students.

Under the current data, Presley said 9 percent of Oklahoma schools were graded with an A; 48 percent with a B; 34 percent with a C; 8 percent with a D; and 1 percent with an F.

“The other thing the state is saying is [this system] is easy to understand; parents will understand it easily,” said Presley. “It takes a 28-page document to explain how they calculate it. The communications tool kit we got was not helpful; I’ll say it that way.”

Under the current grades given to superintendents, but not yet made public from the state, THS received an A in many categories, Presley said, but fell behind in a couple.

“When we get the calculations back, and we can start looking at who grew, who didn’t grow, and we’ll get a better feel of it,” she said. “What we are seeing from these grade cards is that reading pulls us down, and we invest a lot in reading, so that’s concerning to us. Growing our students is a concern also. We will, as always, keep working and keep creatively thinking about what we can do with our students.”

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