School superintendents assess new school report card

OKLAHOMA CITY - After new statewide report cards giving schools a letter grade hit schools, school leaders are making their own judgments on the new system.

The new report cards, years in the making, are meant to give a more comprehensive evaluation of schools.

Overall, schools in Oklahoma averaged a "C."

Millwood High School was among those ranked lowest in the state.

"It’s not necessarily something that I could say that we expected because honestly, until the report card, we don’t have any idea about- we can look out ourselves compared to the state average but we don’t know year to year how we would compare," said Millwood Schools Superintendent Cecila Robinson-Woods.

She said it's important to remember that this is just one data point to judge the school by, and that doesn't necessarily represent the truest picture of how the school performs each day.

But she said she's excited about the possibilities the new cards provide.

"It gives more opportunity for us to share more about the things that affect student outcome, like chronic absenteeism, and post-secondary opportunities," she said.

Her administration has already identified ways to improve, adding an ACT prep class, a remedial math class, and considering community resources to help address some students' chronic absenteeism.

However, she's one of several superintendents who object to giving schools a letter grade.

"You take a place like Millwood," Robinson-Woods said, "we sit in 73111, which is one of the poorest health outcomes, the largest crime rate, we lead the list at the bottom. But we would expect for our school to be better than our community."

She pointed out that a school's perceived shortcomings get tied up with the issues that face some communities, and the kids get judged by circumstances often beyond their control.

"You're always going to compare schools but I think when you add the stigma of attaching letter grades to it, then you end up judging a community, and not judging a school."

Oklahoma Public Schools Superintendent Sean McDaniel released the following statement in response to the report cards:

"Today, the Oklahoma State Department of Education released the Oklahoma School Report Cards. Recently redesigned, the new report cards now provide a dashboard that includes basic information about schools, including enrollment, principal, district and physical location. It will also display information about student demographics, including the percentage of students who are economically disadvantaged (i.e., qualify for free- or reduced-price lunches), are English learners or have a disability. The dashboard will also include recognition for various Programs of Excellence, school offerings and per-pupil expenditure. That said, not all contextual information will be available upon the initial release of the dashboard but will be added incrementally. You can learn more about the dashboard and the new Oklahoma School Report Cards in the detailed instructions below.

While I'm pleased with the changes that have been made to the format of state report cards, I agree with OSSBA Executive Director Shawn Hime's comment yesterday as he questioned whether it is really possible to measure the magic that takes place between teachers and students inside of our buildings each and every day:

"Great work is happening in schools across the state to help every child be successful, and we're hopeful the new school report cards will be a reflection of that. The focus on growth in student achievement is a welcome change from the previous report card, but there are still many unknowns. Our chief areas of concern have long been that a letter grade is far too simple for such a complex issue and whether the grades will be correlated to poverty. Those are among the issues we'll be carefully examining as the report cards become publicly available."

As expected, OKCPS results continue to show that we have both pockets of excellence and areas that need improvement across the district. We are particularly pleased to see significant improvements in overall Report Card grades. More than half of our elementary schools--57%--improved their grade, as well as 42% of our middle schools. We also saw a significant drop in the number of OKCPS schools with overall “F” grades. Last year, approximately 20% of our elementaries had a score in the “F” range, which is up from the previous report card where 54% scored in the “F” range. And among our middle schools, approximately 42% scored in the “F” range last year compared to 83% scoring in the “F” range on the previous report card. We look forward to partnering with the State Department of Education to give these schools the special attention they need to reduce opportunity gaps for our students.

While we are making progress, our overall scores are not acceptable and there is still much work to be done. I believe that by bringing additional academic resources and social supports to our students, decreasing class sizes, and leveling overall school sizes -- all of which are outlined in our Pathway to Greatness initiative -- OKCPS is taking an essential first step toward equitable access to opportunity for all of our students.

As always, I am grateful for the thousands of OKCPS teachers, principals, and support staff who continue to make our kids their priority. Every day they teach, mentor, and love the whole child...as well as our students' families. And, as I've said before, there is no test score or report card can measure that kind of commitment.

While important, we must remember that these report cards are merely a mile marker on our Pathway to Greatness. I truly believe that if we commit to steady, incremental growth and keep students at the center of everything we do, great things are in store for OKCPS and for our city."

Deer Creek Schools Superintendent Dr. Diana Jones also released the following statement to News 4:

"The A-F Report Card scores have provided additional areas of focus for our district.  We have spent that last few weeks studying the various indicators and the student data contained within each area.  The data showed a few areas where we found the need to modify our previously determined areas of growth and focus with our students.

We are proud of our students and staff and will continue our efforts to meet the needs of each individual student with our limited funding and resources.  Even in the categories that our sites scored below an A, we saw growth in those areas. The growth span was just not enough to warrant a raise in the score.  Each site will continue to work diligently to track student progress for each standard.

We look forward to receiving this information sooner in the future. The A-F and Accountability dashboard can be a resource for our staff, provide additional information and assist our staff in monitoring and planning for student academic growth along with our site growth plans, ongoing interventions, common assessments and tracking of each student’s progress."

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