theadanews.com - Ada, Oklahoma

State News

November 6, 2013

A-F grades for schools will improve public education

Oklahoma City — Oklahoma has great teachers and great schools. No one deserves more respect or thanks than our teachers, who are doing difficult and important jobs for modest salaries. 

Many teachers make a profound difference in the lives of their students, instilling them with academic passions that lead to successful careers and fulfilling lives.

These successes should be applauded and celebrated. But just as we should not ignore our many successes, nor should we turn a blind eye to our system’s shortcomings. Those shortcomings are real: data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, for instance, shows that 73 percent of Oklahoma fourth graders are below proficient in reading and 66 percent are below proficient in Math. Furthermore, when our high school graduates reach college, they are often doing so without the skill-sets needed to succeed in college courses. More than two in every five Oklahoma college students must take remedial courses, adding time and expense to their education, and making it more likely they will dropout without acquiring a degree. 

These are problems that can only be addressed by improving K-12 education. Shedding light on school performance - lifting up the hood and seeing what is working and what is not - is absolutely essential to achieving that improvement. We cannot boost student performance if we do not first have a method of identifying schools that are exceeding expectations and those that are falling behind. 

The A-F public school grading system delivers that tool of measurement. It gives parents, administrators and teachers an easily understood way of evaluating school success. 

The letter grades assigned to schools are based on student performance. Fifty percent of the grade is based on the average score students receive on standardized tests in subjects like English and Math. The other half of the grade is based on student improvement on these tests – meaning a school with relatively low scores can still receive a decent grade if student performance is moving in the right direction. 

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