New school report cards promise greater transparency

    New school report cards promise greater transparency in public education.

    After a two-year hiatus, school report cards are returning. The break from the A-F report cards for schools across Oklahoma came after wide-spread criticism of the way schools were graded.

    “This is the old way,” explained State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister holding up the past single-page reporter card. She said those letter grades became a “scarlet letter” for schools and focused only on a single indicator.

    The revamped school report cards now include much more information. They measure districts not just on how the school’s test scores changed year-to-year but also how subgroups of students changed.

    “We believe it is very important to tell a more comprehensive story about the work that schools are doing and be able to tell that in a way that is more meaningful and that will give the user the kind of information that is important to them,” Hofmeister said.

    The state board of education still needs to give its final approval on the new system, but if approved the new report cards will go live on Thursday.

    The new report cards represent the first time the public will see how schools have improved student achievement even if those students are still not meeting state proficiency. Students will be broken into subgroups that will help districts measure success based on a variety of measures including socioeconomic status, disability and race. The new report cards will allow users to see how many of the students who may have be behind in learning have made improvements in the course of a year.

    Also changing is the number of schools on the failing schools list. The federal requirement is 5% of schools, but in the past Oklahoma has had hundreds of schools with the lowest ranking. These schools are eligible for special federal funding and grants aimed at helping improve the failing schools. Superintendent Hofmeister said the department wants to make sure that federal funding has the biggest impact where it is needed the most.

    “We wanted to take those funds and resources that will be given to the State of Oklahoma and not dilute that across many schools,” Hofmeister said.

    She added that parents and the public should not look at the letter grades of individual schools as a way to shame their local district. Instead she called the grades a “snapshot” of the schools and said the real value is the data that will allow the public and educators to identify what is working and what needs improvement in public schools. The ultimate goal is to meet what the Hofmeister called the increasingly diverse needs of all Oklahoma students.

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