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Local school get mixed grades

Last Thursday, for the second consecutive year, the Oklahoma Department of Education released A-F Report Cards for the state’s public schools and school districts. This year’s results reflected generally lower overall grades across the state.

The 2012-13 grade cards for the Pawhuska School District included:

— Pawhuska High School: B minus (last year’s grade was C);

— Pawhuska Junior High: D minus (C last year);

— Pawhuska Elementary School: D plus (last year, C);

— Indian Camp Elementary: D plus (B last year).

“I can’t explain it (the way the grades are calculated) because I don’t know how they are doing it — and, believe me, I’ve tried,” said Pawhuska School Superintendent Dr. Landon Berry.

The local superintendent pointed out that 90 percent of Oklahoma schools received passing grades of A, B and C last year whereas, this year, that percentage dropped to 75 percent.

“I’m sure there’s a reason for that, but it’s not one that makes sense from an educator’s standpoint,” Berry said.

The second-year report cards showed that an overall A grade was received by 354 Oklahoma schools, compared to 160 in 2012. This year’s A’s accounted for 20 percent of the total, more than double the percentage of A schools from last year.

There were 499 state public schools (28 percent of them) that earned an overall B, while 472 (or 26 percent) received C’s. Those numbers compare to last year’s total of 842 B’s and 594 C’s.

A significant rise in D’s and F’s also was seen this year, with 263 schools getting D grades and 163 schools receiving F’s. In all, below-average grades were given to a combined 24 percent of schools statewide this year. In 2012, the report cards recorded 138 D’s and 10 F’s.

“The A-F grading system is part of a larger, comprehensive effort to heighten accountability and transparency for the state’s public schools by providing parents and communities with readily understood information about how their local schools are doing,” a release by the state education department stated.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi said this year’s grade results were expected. She said the latest results reflect increased academic rigor as well as some changes that were made to the grade-calculation methodology.

“Our students do not know less than they did, and teachers are not doing a poor job,” said Barresi. “Far from it.”

The state superintendent has previously stated: “This is a transformative time for Oklahoma education. The move to higher standards and expectations will be challenging, but the rewards will be generations of young people ready for college, career and citizenship.”

The grading formula underwent some changes earlier this year after passage of Oklahoma House Bill 1658, which addressed a number of concerns that had been raised by district administrators.

“I am proud of Oklahoma’s teachers and the incredible work they do day after day,” Barresi said. “It is a difficult job, but a crucial one in the lives of young people and the future of our great state. I would urge Oklahoma parents to take an active role in supporting our teachers.”

Barresi acknowledged that the A-F grades have met resistance from some administrators.

“Change can be painful and sometimes scary,” she said. “Nothing worth achieving is easy, but nothing is more worth it than the future of our children.”

Later last week, a poll conducted of educators from the Oklahoma Education Association awarded Barresi and F grade for her performance as state superintendent.

All of the public school grade cards may be viewed online at http://afreportcards.ok.gov.

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