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Alpha Plus Blog: Alpha Plus News, Materials, Partners, and Education Materials

Alpha Plus Blog

Our latest press releases, and Oklahoma Education news. Subscribe for our teaching tips and resources for school improvement.

Hunger Free Oklahoma

childeatingSMFrom Hunger Free Oklahoma:

Children living in rural areas have 26% greater odds of obesity compared to urban children. This is one of the many reasons why Afterschool Meal programs, like Cherokee Elementary School's, are so imperative for students to get the nutrition they need to thrive and learn in rural OK!

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Senator Lankford At Magnum


Senator Lankford was at Magnum last week speaking with teachers. When asked about testing standards, teachers responded that Alpha Plus is the only thing that works!

Alpha Plus: Written by Oklahoma teachers, for Oklahoma teachers, to Oklahoma Standards

From Senator James Lankford:

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Revamped Grade Cards

tulsaworldFrom The Tulsa World: 

'No perfect system': Revamped grade cards are better but don't fully accomplish goal, school leaders say

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma State Department of Education on Thursday released school report cards after a years-long effort to overhaul the controversial A-F grading system.

The new grade cards, which were designed to better reflect student achievement and school improvement, came online shortly after State Board of Education members voted to certify them during their monthly meeting. They appear on an interactive dashboard via that allows users to analyze and compare data with schools across the state.

For Tulsa Public Schools, only Booker T. Washington High School received an overall A grade, while 21 school sites received an F.  Meanwhile, several suburban districts received mostly B's and C's, but with no A's or F's.

This is the first time Oklahoma has released school report cards since October 2016. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister led education proponents in condemning the old accountability system for relying too much on student proficiency rates for state-mandated tests while failing to accurately show school performance.

A 95-member task force representing educators, parents and other stakeholders helped remodel the grade cards to feature performance indicators and highlight student progress.

The new report cards include measurements for academic achievement, English language proficiency and chronic absenteeism. There are also measurements detailing academic growth for elementary and middle schools as well as graduation rates and post-secondary opportunities for high schools.

Each indicator is assigned a number of points and given an individual letter grade, with a maximum of 90 available points to produce a school’s overall grade. The online dashboard includes the overall letter grade at the bottom of each school page.

Academic achievement in math, English language arts and science are now measured on two factors — the degree to which students are meeting individual group targets as they work toward proficiency and the percentage of students reaching proficiency. 

"It was important that the new system not have a myopic focus on spring state tests," Hofmeister said. "The new system recognizes that all kids start at different places, and in fact was built on the belief that all students can grow and all students can improve, no matter where they are today."

The grading system assigns students target scores based on special subgroups in an effort to help all demographics reach proficiency, as required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. Subgroups include students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged students, English learners, black students and Hispanic students.

Unlike in the previous system, Hofmeister said students are now counted only once to ensure everyone contributes equally to the student achievement indicator.

This year's grades were distributed on a bell curve. The bottom 5 percent of schools received an F and will have access to increased federal funding. Because of the bell curve, 5 percent of schools also received an A.

As required under ESSA, academic achievement and academic growth account for the highest number of possible points.

Hofmeister acknowledged that the new report cards are a tool to satisfy federal requirements and shouldn’t be viewed as a snapshot of school progress.

“It is not a comprehensive evaluation of the important and critical work that is occurring in schools right now,” she said. “But it does give us some information that we hope will be more meaningful than in the past, and we have confidence that it is valid and reliable, which is what it must be.”

'Be cautious about drawing conclusions'

TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist said the new report cards are an improvement over the previous grading system, but she said schools shouldn’t be solely judged on their state grades.

“It is absolutely a better system than the old system, but there is no perfect system,” Gist said. “So it is valuable and it is important information, and I would just encourage people to use it to understand and better hold us accountable, but also be cautious about drawing conclusions about any of our schools based on their grade.”

The district’s own testing, conducted three times each school year measuring progress in the fall, winter and spring, better demonstrates schools’ performance than the annual state tests which factor in summer break, Gist said. Students lose five to six months of progress during the summer break, and Gist said schools spend much of their year digging out of the hole left behind.

It’s why a school like Anderson Elementary, which Gist said has shown vast improvement based on district evaluations, still received an F despite the new system’s focus on growth.

“I think it’s just the difference between the sensitivity of the tools and the timing,” Gist said. “We have a test that we give multiple times during the year that we can look at multiple times of the year. ... So on an annual measure, even if the students show growth, it may not pick up as much growth because during that school year they’ve made progress and fallen back behind again.”

Despite extensive efforts to better serve students, Anderson Elementary received the same overall grade it did in 2016. The high-poverty school has focused on closing achievement gaps faced by poor and minority students. 

"My teachers just go above and beyond every day, and for us to hang another F on the door, it's disheartening," Anderson Principal Tracy Thompson said. 

Although she's frustrated with the results, Thompson said the new emphasis on student growth is a step in the right direction. 

But she believes the report cards still focus too much on standardized test scores to grade schools. 

"In the same way that not all people learn the same, not all people test the same," Thompson said. "As this news is coming out, my teachers are like, 'Oh my gosh, I would rather build a portfolio for every kid to measure their success instead of just assigning a score to every child.'

"That's not fair to make a score of one test on one day what that child has learned because it's just not accurate." 

Booker T. Washington High School received the district’s only A grade. Principal Melissa Woolridge said it’s a team effort to achieve the high grade, but that doesn’t mean the school won’t address the few low marks on its scorecard.

The high school received a C for chronic absenteeism, and Woolridge said the high school is already working to improve its rating through various efforts.

“We’ve already put measures in place to make sure we reach the A level status on that next year,” Woolridge said. “But it’s a good feeling because as a team we’ve put in a lot of hard work and dedication, a lot of extra time and it’s good to see something positive come out of our effort.

“We’ve shifted a couple of people to focus on certain portions of our students who are continually absent. We’re trying to put something in place to make sure that no longer becomes a problem.”

Suburban reaction to new grade cards

Bixby Superintendent Rob Miller said he continues to struggle philosophically “with the methods used to place individual students into priority groups and for computing chronic absenteeism” even though his district fared well by comparison with others.

“The intent was to increase transparency and public accountability related to school performance. This goal has never been fully realized because the definition of school success is narrowly defined as performance on standardized tests. The new Oklahoma school reports continue to emphasize student performance on state testing as it's primary metric,” Miller said. “These report cards do not point to the real opportunities for growth.”

Owasso Public Schools earned mostly B's, which represents a change for the community.

"Our grades are not the same; they've gone down," said Margaret Coates, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning. "I'm new this year, but I think in the past, Owasso had more A's on the old system. We have to keep that in mind — this report card is a new system and it is a growth-model. It is just a snapshot of our schools. It is not our primary motivator to improve."

Todd Nelson, senior executive director of research, design and assessment at Union Public Schools, said overall, the state's new grading system means it is statistically impossible for as many schools to earn A or F grades as on the previous report cards. And Union saw that fact born out in its own results, having mostly B's, C's and four D's.

"It tends to have most schools fall in the middle with C's. We have several schools with B's," Nelson said. "It's a new accountability system. It does make a better effort than the previous one to address the complexities of education and mitigate the effects that are variables in students' lives, but it doesn't fully accomplish that goal. Even those involved in the development of this understand that."

Like many school district leaders, Nelson said Union will remain focused on more meaningful outcomes and measures for students and their parents because of the inherent fault of Oklahoma's school grading system.


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Public Schools Week


Governor Kevin Stitt proclaimed March 24th as Public Schools Week.

He states, in his tweet: Our public schools across the state are working hard to invest in our children each day. As governor, we will support our public education system in order to put it on a path to being Top 10 in the nation.

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We Remember: OKC National Memorial Museum


We remember: the Oklahoma City bombing of April 19, 1995. We honor the victims, survivors, rescuers, and all affected by the bombing. We remember with thanks all who gave of themselves to help.

Visit for more information

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