Ted Stanton Special to the Democrat
November 8, 2013
Durant public schools earned better grades on the state’s report card this year than last. This time two elementary schools in the district, Northwest Heights and Washington Irving, received an overall A, and Robert E. Lee Elementary jumped from a C to an A-. Durant High School received a B-+, Durant Middle School B and Durant Intermediate C. A year ago the tally was 5 Bs and one C. Durant Independent School District Superintendent Jason Simeroth credited “an increased, intense focus on content” for the improvement, along with “new strategies and some different tactics.” The scores “were also helped by tutors for students at Lee and other schools,” Simeroth added.
The grades for all the schools in the state were approved for public release by the state Board of Education at its meeting Wednesday morning, one week after a highly flawed rollout prompted a delay in the release. Durant grades, Simeroth noted, had been changed five times within two days of their initial release; Oklahoma City reported six changes and there was similar shuffling in almost every district in the state.
Another snag this time: a delay in the overall grade for each district “for several days,” officials said. Some district grades were posted briefly on the state Website, then hastily removed. Simeroth said he saw the Durant ISD grade, a C+, “but then it disappeared.” He added that he didn’t understand “how they could come up with a C+ when we had three As, two Bs and one C.” In reporting the schools’ grades, the state Department of Education also posted an overall grade for the state, a C-.
All the school and district grades are based on scores in three categories: Student achievement, which accounted for 50 percent of the grade; overall student growth measuring progress toward proficiency (25 percent); growth and progress toward proficiency by students in the “bottom quartile (25 percent).” The areas assessed in some or all the categories are reading and English, math, science, history and writing.
Bonus points were awarded based on graduation rates, advanced coursework, college entrance exam results, and year-to-year growth. For the whole state, the report card showed 6 Cs, one D and five Fs. Simeroth expressed some skepticism about the validity of the so-called report card, given all the changes and revisions that were made initially, and the new delay in the district score.
He said he found some merit in a report by researchers from the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University who claimed that problems in the A-F formula made the reports almost “meaningless.“ State School Superintendent Janet Barresi has been highly critical of educators who have assailed the A-F system on the basis of the research report. Simeroth said one aim of the A-F reports was to make it easier for parents and others to determine how well the students are being educated. However, he said, he believes the complexity of the reports makes understanding them more difficult.