School board reviews new A-F report cards

From the left, Ada Board of Education member Doug Haney looks on as Lisa Fulton, Ada City Schools’ director of federal programs, discusses the new A-F report cards Monday. The state Department of Education recently released the report cards, which provide a snapshot of schools’ performance.

The Ada Board of Education reviewed the district’s latest state-issued report cards Monday but did not take action.

Ada schools received a mix of Bs, Cs and Ds on their report cards, the first in nearly three years. The report cards measured their performance in a variety of categories and assigned them a letter grade for each category, plus an overall grade.

The Oklahoma State Department of Education’s Office of Accountability has adopted the philosophy that all students are capable of growing and all schools can improve, said Lisa Fulton, director of federal programs for Ada City Schools.

“That’s their vision with the new school report cards,” she said.

Elementary and junior high schools across the state were graded in up to four categories: academic growth, English language proficiency, academic achievement and chronic absenteeism. High schools were rated in up to five categories, including graduation rates and opportunities for post-secondary education.

Washington Grade Center, Willard Grade Center and Ada Junior High received grades in academic growth category, but Ada High did not, Fulton said. She said that was because high school students don’t take a state-mandated test before taking the ACT that state officials can use to track academic growth.

The English language proficiency category applies to schools that have at least 10 students learning English as a second language, Fulton said. She added that school quality indicators, such as chronic absenteeism and post-secondary educational opportunities, provide the public with additional information about schools beyond test scores.

The grades in the academic achievement category are based on two measures — students who meet academic target scores and students who achieve proficiency, according to the state Department of Education. Every elementary and middle school student contributes to the maximum score of 30 or 35 points for this category — 15 for English language arts, 15 for math and five for science, which is administered only in fifth and eighth grades.

Every high school junior contributes to the maximum possible score of 30 at the high school level — 15 for English language arts and 15 for math.

Academic growth tracks individual students’ progress compared to their progress from the previous year, Fulton said. That category is divided into four categories: below basic, basic, proficient and advanced.

Fulton said the old system only gave students credit if they moved from one category to another, but that was not the case with the new system.

“But under this accountability system, you can actually get points for growing within that band,” she said. “So I might go from basic low to basic high, and I would earn a portion of points.”

English-language proficiency measures an English-learning student’s progress toward mastering the language, Fulton said. The system takes that student’s baseline assessment and estimates how many years it will take him or her to reach proficiency.

“If they meet their target for that year, then we earn points for that,” Fulton said.

She noted that some schools did not receive a grade for English language proficiency because they did not have enough English-learning students.

The chronic absenteeism grade is based on student attendance. Students are considered chronically absent if they miss more than 10 percent of their school days, which would be 18 days based on a 180-day academic calendar.

Fulton said the absenteeism category is designed to identify and support students whose poor attendance puts them at risk of academic failure.

Reactions

School board member Russ Gurley, who noted that Washington Grade Center had received an F in English language proficiency, asked about the significance of that grade.

“Is that telling us that we have a lot of kids there that don’t speak English, and they’re not getting it?” he said.

Superintendent Mike Anderson said there are only 20 English-learning students at Washington — 5 percent of the student population, driving 17 percent of the school’s score in that category.

“They did not make progress, and it’s a moving target,” he said. “Because these kids have to meet individual targets.”

Anderson noted that some English-language students live in Ada for only a short time, but the district is still responsible for helping them achieve proficiency.

Paula Kedy, executive director of curriculum and instruction, said the English language proficiency category focuses on students’ grasp of English — not their progress in subject areas, such as reading or math.

“It’s just whether or not they are better at speaking English, not whether they’re reading ‘Great Gatsby’ or whatever else somebody else is teaching,” she said. “It’s only if their English-speaking acquisition skills are growing.”

Eric Swanson is the City Hall and general assignment reporter for The Ada News. He spent 15 years working at the Dodge City Daily Globe in Dodge City, Kansas, before joining The Ada News’ staff in 2012.