The current system for evaluating Oklahoma schools is going away, but the state Department of Education released its final set of letter grades and numerical scores calculated using the soon-to-vanish system.

A-F Grades, by School

Critics of the grading system say reducing a school’s performance to one grade is unfair and distorted because it oversimplifies the complex mixture of successes and shortcomings of schools and is based mainly on standardized testing. Advocates for tough accountability measures  say while the current system is flawed, it provides an  evidence-based way for parents and educators to monitor and compare school performance.

Some questions and answers on the latest report cards and what’s next:

Q: How did schools perform?
A: This year’s report cards reflect 196 “A” schools – a decrease from 212 last year – and 213 “F” schools – an increase from 183 the year before. In the largest school districts, A’s and B’s were hard to come by. Of the 78 schools in Oklahoma City Public Schools, there were just three A’s and six B’s. More than half of the district’s schools (43) received F’s. Tulsa Public Schools saw similar results, with four A’s and six B’s in its 76 schools. Forty-five received F’s.

Total School Grades, 2016

GradesTotal SchoolsElementary SchoolsMiddle SchoolsHigh Schools
*Schools that weren’t graded, such as pre-K schools.

Q: Why are so many schools failing?
A: Of the schools currently being monitored based on last year’s grades, the common thread is a high population of economically disadvantaged students, one state official said. In some schools, principal and teacher turnover hinders momentum for improvement. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister pointed to the teacher shortage as well as statewide social issues such as incarcerated women and mental health. “These are all big state problems that are intersecting in the classroom,” Hofmeister said. Nevertheless, Hofmeister has been critical of the current A-F grading system since she ran for office in 2014.

Q: What’s wrong the current system?
A: The federal Every Student Succeeds Act requires states to measure certain subgroups of students, such as English Language Learners and minority students, which isn’t reflected in Oklahoma’s current report cards. Also, high school graduation is currently measured with bonus points, allowing schools to still achieve a high letter grade despite a low graduation rate.

Q: What happens next?
A: An effort to completely revise the state A-F system is underway, and the board is expected to approve the new system in December, and present it to the Legislature by Feb. 3. The tests used to calculate the grades are also changing to account for the elimination of end-of-instruction exams for high school students.

Q: Will Oklahoma do away with the A-F designation?
A: The federal Every Student Succeeds Act requires states to give schools a “summative” rating, but it doesn’t have to be A through F. Alternatives include a number scale, such as 1 to 100, or a category, such as  “needs improvement,” “satisfactory” or “excellent.” A proposal for the new system has yet to be finalized, but it’s unlikely the state will give up,

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