A-F school report bill authors weigh in on new formula

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- School administrators across the state have been upset over the formula used to calculate A-F report cards for schools.

As a result, the system is being tweaked and those grades are set to be released later this month.

The formula controversy is about setting a benchmark to judge a student's growth.

The old formula didn't count the bottom 25 percent of students who had modest or negative growth.

Several school superintendents said that formula set the bar too high.

The new formula will count those lower performing students, which the state believes lowers the bar of expectations.

State Superintendent Janet Barresi said. "How do you get credit for a child falling behind?" 

Barresi said she is frustrated that the State Board of Education decided to recalculate school report cards at the urging of hundreds of school superintendents.

She said she believes the new formula will lower academic standards which she said was not the intent of the law, House Bill 1456.

"There's always a nebulous, gray area on what did we really mean," Rep. Lee Denney (R-Dist 33) said, the House author of the bill. "I think they (the Department of Education) tried to follow the intent of the law."

Denney said she doesn't favor one formula over the other but does want all students to be measured for a more fair reflection of a school.

"We need to celebrate the growth we have and we need to be proud of teachers that can move a child, no matter which quartile they're in, a year's growth for a year's seat time in our classroom."

The previous grading formula was similar to a marathon race, where only the fastest runners' times are counted.

The new formula will also add the times of the slowest runners, or negative growth students.

Adding the slower times slows the average running time of everyone, which makes the middle-of-the-pack runners look more impressive than before.

"You can set the level of growth arbitrarily anywhere and a teacher will look successful or look like a failure," Norman Schools Superintendent Dr. Joe Siano said Tuesday.

Siano supports the new formula because it will give schools credit for having students that show even slight growth.

Under the old formula, those students would not have been credited for showing growth.

"You can't just dismiss that growth and make-believe it didn't occur," Siano said. "And I think the formula acts as if that growth didn't occur at all and I think that misrepresents instruction that's going on in classrooms."

Sen. Clark Jolley (R-Dist 41), the Senate author of the bill, does not like the new formula.

Jolley issued this statement Tuesday:

"We should never want to include losses in whether our students saw average gains. Why should a district or school get positive grades because some other school or district made backwards progress? Including losses in achievement lowers our expectations that our students are going to gain knowledge in their time in school. My intent was we should measure gains only, mainly because students moving backwards should never be rewarded."

Dr. Siano said the old formula didn't give credit for even slight growth among students struggling with English  those in special education or those from poor families who have more difficulty in school.

The State Board of Education will review the new school grades and possibly approve their release at their next meeting, Oct. 25.

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