In The Know: Dept. of Education released incorrect grades for Oklahoma school districts

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that the State Department of Education admitted that it mistakenly posted A through F grades for districts before they were ready, and the C grades many districts saw were arbitrary placeholders. The Tulsa World examined how schools that received low grades are responding. U.S. Grant high school in Oklahoma City has seen large improvements after an influx of federal money for professional development, teacher incentives and technology.

The okeducationtruths blog charted how much poverty, absentee rate, and other school factors correlate with A-F Grades and examined how charter schools fared on the grades compared to traditional public schools. The Department of Education awarded a $34.45 million contract to conduct standardized testing in Oklahoma to the New Hampshire company Measured Progress. Okeducationtruths examined the background of this company.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof discussed the success of early childhood education in Oklahoma. Oklahoma higher education officials are seeking $1.065 billion in state appropriations for the 2015 fiscal year, including a $76 million increase for degree completion efforts. The Oklahoma Tax Commission is rejecting tax forms from same-sex couples who claimed married status, forcing them to compute their federal taxes twice.

The final issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly examines how health reform and an aging population are expected to strain Oklahoma’s primary care providers. A scheduled accounting change could require cities and schools to list state pension debt on their balance sheets, leading to potential higher borrowing costs. M. Scott Carter writes that Oklahoma’s pension obligations make it wildly irresponsible to continue cutting taxes.

The Number of the Day is the average annual cost of infant daycare in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, Atlantic Cities explains why cities in states that won’t expand Medicaid may lose big.

In The News

Dept. of Education released incorrect grades for Oklahoma school districts

The State Department of Education is admitting today that it made a mistake by posting A through F grades for districts on Wednesday, in addition to the A through F grades for individual schools. Shortly after posting the district grades online, the department removed them, but not before many districts saw inaccurate grades for themselves. FOX23 spoke with officials in the State Department of Education’s communications office, who said it was their mistake posting inaccurate district grades before they were ready. In fact, they tell us the C grades many districts saw were random, arbitrary place holders.

Read more from Fox23.

Schools with lower grades look forward

After the state released the school report cards Wednesday, Principal Rita Long of McAuliffe Elementary School got a call from a parent. Since the Union school’s grade fell to an F from last year’s C, she wasn’t sure what the parent might say. “The thing that I loved is she wanted to know what she could do as a parent to help,” Long said. Teachers and principals at local schools that saw their grades decline said they can’t help but feel the impact of the change, but they know they must carry on.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Turnaround complete at U.S. Grant after influx of federal money

It wasn’t that long ago that Amiee Neal seriously considered sending her oldest son somewhere other than U.S. Grant High School for his freshman year. The school had earned a spot in the federal doghouse for failing to meet student testing standards and dozens of teachers lost there jobs as the result of a school reform plan. Less than four years later, Grant is forging a new reputation as a school known for high academic standards. Thanks to an influx of federal money that paid for professional development, teacher incentives and technology, the largest school in Oklahoma City is now among the state’s elite.

Read more from NewsOK.

Things that correlate to A-F Grades

I don’t know how much my readers have studied statistics, but we live in a data-driven culture where people (at least pretend to) make decisions based on numbers. Last year, if you’ll recall, I took the district grades and compared them to district poverty rates, using free and reduced lunch percentages as a proxy, finding a -.44 correlation. That would be considered a strong, negative relationship, meaning that as poverty increases, there is a strong likelihood the grade decreases. This year, I looked at site grades and found an even stronger correlation (-.60).

Read more from okeducationtruths.

See also: Charter School Grades from okeducationtruths

Education Board awards testing contract to new company

State education officials on Friday revealed that a New Hampshire-based, nonprofit company called Measured Progress has been awarded a contract for Oklahoma’s new standardized tests for grades 3-8 On Wednesday, the state Board of Education voted unanimously to recommend awarding the $34.45 million contract based solely on the recommendation of Education Department officials because the identity of the contract bidders was not yet a matter of public record. On Friday, Education Department spokeswoman Tricia Pemberton confirmed that Measured Progress had been awarded the contract.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

See also: More about Measured Progress from okeducationtruths

Oklahoma! Where the kids learn early

Liberals don’t expect Oklahoma to serve as a model of social policy. But, astonishingly, we can see in this reddest of red states a terrific example of what the United States can achieve in early education. On the Ground Every 4-year-old in Oklahoma gets free access to a year of high-quality prekindergarten. Even younger children from disadvantaged homes often get access to full-day, year-round nursery school, and some families get home visits to coach parents on reading and talking more to their children. The aim is to break the cycle of poverty, which is about so much more than a lack of money.

Read more from the New York Times.

Higher education regents approve $1.065 billion budget request

Oklahoma higher education officials are seeking $1.065 billion in state appropriations for the 2015 fiscal year. The request — approved Thursday by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education — represents a 7.7 percent increase in state funding from the current fiscal year, or $76.3 million. “Every new dollar requested is tied directly to degree completion,” Higher Education Chancellor Glen Johnson said.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma rejects same-sex couples’ tax forms

The Oklahoma Tax Commission has returned payments to fewer than 10 same-sex couples, rejecting amended tax forms that had claimed married status. The exact number is not being released because that would de facto identify the filers, said commission spokeswoman Paula Ross. “It is a very, very low number,” Ross said. “The reason could be it is not tax season. Had it been during filing season, the number would probably have been higher.” The tax forms were submitted after the federal Internal Revenue Service in August announced its married filing status would apply equally to married same-sex couples, regardless of where they lived.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Reform, aging population put pressure on primary care

About 48 million people don’t have health insurance, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Can the health care system absorb the enrollment of millions into coverage, a stated goal of health reform? It’s the wrong question to ask, according to Dr. Gerard Clancy, president of the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa and also dean of the OU-Tulsa School of Community Medicine. “Those uninsured Americans are still getting health care,” said Clancy. “It’s not as if they’re totally out of the system. They’re getting health care. So this argument that if we insure them, that’ll suddenly put a burden on the health care system, is really not accurate to the situation.”

Read more from Urban Tulsa Weekly.

Pension accounting change could hurt schools, cities

A scheduled accounting change in the way governmental entities must treat pension debt has local city and school financial officers sweating potential higher borrowing costs. Beginning in Fiscal Year 2015, the Governmental Accounting Standards Board is set to require many Oklahoma schools and cities to list millions of dollars of pension debt on their financial statements even though they “don’t owe it” and “can’t legally pay it,” said state Auditor Gary Jones. That should concern taxpayers, since the change could potentially prompt credit rating agencies to downgrade the credit ratings of Oklahoma cities and schools.

Read more from NewsOK.

M. Scott Carter: It takes money to buy corn

For years Oklahoma lawmakers – both Democrat and Republican – wrote and passed legislation that caused huge financial holes in the state’s public retirement systems. If it wasn’t the unfunded cost-of-living allowance, the Legislature created special deals for those who were elected to public office. The result is a public retirement system that is underfunded by billions of dollars. A few years ago, several public officials got smart and called for changes. But while the Legislature was making progress, it also took several steps backward. Urged on by the never-ending cry to cut taxes to the bone, the Oklahoma Legislature looked beyond the problems with the state’s pension systems. Instead of fixing them, they reduced state tax revenue.

Read more from the Journal Record.

Quote of the Day

It’s promising that here in Oklahoma, early education isn’t seen as a Republican or Democratic initiative. It is simply considered an experiment that works.

-New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof (Source:

Number of the Day


Average annual cost of infant daycare in Oklahoma – $1,331 more than the cost of a year of tuition and fees at a public college or university in 2013

Source: Child Care Aware

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Biggest Obamacare Losers? Cities in States That Won’t Expand Medicaid

Grady Memorial Hospital in downtown Atlanta is a formidable institution, a bulwark for the low-income and uninsured that grew from a hundred beds in 1892 to one of the largest public hospitals in the country. Each year, nearly every one of Georgia’s 158 counties sends patients to the hospital for its specialized units or its open doors. Private insurance covers little of this care: A majority of all these people who come to Grady are either on Medicaid or have no insurance at all. Next year, the hospital’s perpetually strained resources will begin to grow even tighter.

Read more from Atlantic Cities.

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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