The ability to gather and participate in robust public discussion is one of the best tenets of a free society.

The State Department of Education held a public forum this week to take comments on the rules drafted to implement the state’s new A-F School Grading System. Comments were heard from superintendents, educators and parents from across the state.

While I was meeting with teachers in workshops on the Teacher and Leader Effectiveness system, two members of my legal counsel were present to record responses, which I’ve now heard. Members of the State Board of Education also will hear these comments. Members of my staff listened to an audio feed of the forum from an overflow conference room, allowing more room in the boardroom for the public.

A-F was approved by the Legislature last year. As with any new education law, the State Department of Education now must draft rules to comply with the law. Work groups, focus groups, superintendents, and educators from all across Oklahoma shaped A-F rules over a period of months.  Additionally, the authors of the legislation have been involved every step of the way.

Rules, by their very nature, can be detailed and complicated, but my legal experts have done their best to summarize the rules in such a way as to be understood by the general public. They are continuing work as they create implementation guides for school districts. Districts will be able to utilize the formula themselves to determine their A-F grade.

The A-F grading system itself will be very clear-cut and easy to understand.  The system will not provide new information that will be hurtful to any stakeholder.  All of this information already is available under the present accountability system, the Academic Performance Index, (API). But whereas API ranks schools on a scale of 0-1500, A-F gives parents and community members a much easier to understand school grade, much like their child’s report card. 

In addition, the granting of our waiver from No Child Left Behind is contingent upon the approval of rules.

We all know what these letter grades mean. If it’s OK to give a child an A-F grade, why not the school they attend?  Accountability that is accessible and understandable is our only option.

Last updated on March 23, 2012