Woodward, Okla. —
Area school superintendents had some mixed emotions Thursday after the Oklahoma State Department of Education released the A-F School Report Cards.
These report cards provided an evaluation on school performance by assigning, for the first time ever, a letter grade of A through F for every school in the state.
According to the State Department of Education Website, all schools in Woodward County received overall grades of either B or C.
DISSATISFIED WITH SYSTEM
While mainly viewing the grades as motivation to improve, several superintendents remained dissatisfied with the whole A-F school grading system.
Fort Supply Schools received some of the top overall GPAs in the county, with its elementary level, which includes students in pre-kindergarten to 8th grade, earning a 3.66 GPA overall. Fort Supply elementary came the closest to earning an A, which is only presented to schools earning a 3.75 GPA or above.
"Our scores are fairly consistent with what we expected," said Pat Howell, superintendent of Fort Supply. "We made a strong B, and we see it as an opportunity to take a serious look at areas where we need to improve."
At the same time however, Howell said he can see where the current A-F school evaluation system could be a detriment to his district.
"We're so small that any given year our grade could fluctuate greatly," Howell said. "We're addressing the areas we were lacking on the report card, we're enrolling students in ACT prep classes, sending them to training courses, and encouraging kids to take multiple tests, but I feel on occasion that we have one hand tied behind our back because of our numbers. If one student scores poorly on a test it can pretty easily skew our average."
Jeff Thompson, superintendent of Sharon-Mutual schools, expressed similar concern with the effects of the report card system on small schools.
"The report cards aren't as easy and transparent to understand as you'd think," said Thompson. "Each school is unique, so how they get to the results is hard to explain. For example on our high school report card we actually scored well in certain areas, but couldn't count those grades because of an insufficient number of students' scores. So we did well there, we just couldn't count it, and that's not easy to understand."
Woodward Superintendent Tim Merchant also expressed dissatisfaction with the report card system, and specifically what he saw as the State Department of Education's refusal to take advantage of an opportunity to improve that system.
Originally the Education Department was slated to release the A-F school grades earlier this month following a special board meeting on Oct. 8.
However, the board agreed to delay the release of the grades to consider issues about how the statewide growth average was calculated.
"We are deeply disappointed the state board did not accept the recommendation from schools to reconsider how the state average growth was calculated," Merchant said. "The average only took into consideration students that showed improved scores, it did not average in kids that did more poorly on the test than last year."
"In doing so," Merchant went on, "they inflated the bar for improvement unrealistically high, making small improvements by students negligible. We were just looking for fairness."
SCORES THEMSELVES NOT DISAPPOINTING
The repost cards weren't entirely surrounded by dissatisfaction however.
"We're not entirely disappointed with our scores, it's more of a motivation," Merchant said. "But it can be frustrating for teachers to put in the time and effort with students, and to make small improvements, and not get credit for it because they're not improving at what we consider to be an unrealistic rate."
Howell also said he wasn't disappointed with the grades themselves.
"Overall we're pleased with the results," he said. "We're discouraged by the places we're not as high as we'd like to be, but we're working hard with the kids and we have to remind ourselves that with a student population as small as ours scores can change greatly in a year."
Thompson didn't say whether he was pleased or disappointed with Sharon-Mutual's overall scores, only that he wasn't surprised by them.
"We had a month to look at preliminary results and make some data adjustments and we did, so our grades are pretty much what we knew we'd get," Thompson said.
GOVERNOR PRAISES SYSTEM
In a press release issued by her office on Thursday, Gov. Mary Fallin praised the new school grading system.
"As governor, one of my top priorities is to improve the quality of education for students in Oklahoma. Creating an A-F grading system for schools is an essential step in pursuing that goal. Having this new system will allow us to measure progress, recognize and reward schools that perform well, and identify those schools that are in need of improvement," Fallin said in the release.
MERCHANT SAYS SYSTEM WON'T COMPROMISE EDUCATION LEVEL
Merchant also tried to remain somewhat optimistic about the system, stating "In fairness, I'm sure if we stuck with the system it could possibly get better in years to come, though as it is now I think it was rushed."
Regardless of the issues with the school grading system, Merchant said it wouldn't change the Woodward district's dedication to providing the best education to its students, which he believes means a well-rounded education.
"We will not compromise students' education for higher grades on the school report cards," he said. "Woodward will not become solely obsessed with math and English based tests as a means of improving our grade, we will still emphasize the sciences and other subjects. We also believe there are things more vital to a student's education than one score on one test, such as participation in school and community programs like FFA and athletics to name a few, and we will not jeopardize that experience for a higher school report card score."
Early Childhood Center - 3.50 (B)
Cedar Heights - 3.15 (B)
Highland Park - 2.32 (C)
Horace Mann - 2.32 (C)
Middle School - 2.32 (C)
High School - 3.17 (B)
Elementary, through 8th grade - 3.66 (B)
High School - 3.50 (B)
Elementary, through 8th grade - 2.66 (C)
High School - 3.00 (B)
Elementary, through 8th grade - 2.65 (C)
High School - 3.00 (B)