Oklahoma recently released report cards for schools across the state. The ratings are an A-F scale based on student growth and achievement, with bonuses awarded for a number of school-wide achievements like AP courses and even things like graduation rate. The confidence Oklahoma public education officials hold in these report cards is incredibly low, and I am inclined to agree with them after looking at the criteria.
Testing, as it stands, is one of the best predictors of future academic performance, but only collegiate performance. The current report card system prioritizes that performance over the success of students as a whole. As college becomes more and more expensive, schools have also become more and more college-prepatory, which disadvantages students who are unable or choose not to go to college. These report cards do not evaluate schools on their ability to instill useful life skills, only their ability to install semantic memorization. They only provide information on schools as they relate specifically to testing performance, not student engagement, not extracurricular participation and can only barely supply information about graduation rate.
In fact, as Public Instruction Superintendent Joy Hofmeister states, “You can have a B and still have a 60 percent graduation rate in your school.” As it stands, graduation rates are a bonus, not a necessary and well investigated aspect of school evaluation.
The A-F report card calculation guide is nebulously worded, and additionally, if the percent of students tested is less than 95 percent, then the school grade will be dropped by one letter grade. I have college courses with a less strict attendance policy. Encouraging participation is necessary, but lowering a full letter grade for less than 95 percent testing is more akin to coercive measures. In the future, the entire basis of this system will no longer be obtainable, as the End-of-Instruction testing it is based on was removed from the legislature this year.
As for the usefulness of this system, I cannot support a single letter grading system that attempts to take all that is in a school and reduce it to one unreliable letter grade. My own former high school, Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences, which is a national Blue Ribbon school, received a C this year, whereas Booker T. Washington, another fantastic school in the Tulsa area, received an A+.
In the state that is first in cuts to education, and 50th in teacher pay, I do not think spending 1 million dollars (did I mention this terrible evaluation cost a million dollars to compile?) on a faulty grading system is worth our time or focus. I believe that the only good to come from this waste of money is to reorient the state legislature at how absolutely atrocious our education programs are. So while Joy Hofmeister and co. can be upset about the inapplicability of the grading system, they also need to be upset about the state of Oklahoma’s utter disregard for education as a whole. We as Oklahomans can contact our state representative and tell them that an unreliable and unhelpful grading system is not what our state needs for its failing education programs. The other thing to do is to disregard the grading systems, rely on the feedback of students and be involved.