Understanding the Issues: A-F Accountability Report Cards
Increased transparency in educational outcomes is a hallmark of education reform efforts. In recent years, reform efforts have focused on a push for increased transparency and accountability at the local level. The United States’ decentralized system of education makes it difficult to use national or even statewide metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of educational policy decisions. With educational outcomes relying so much on local school boards and school leadership (such as principals and superintendents), many policymakers have pressed for school-by-school and district-by-district accountability measures. In Oklahoma, lawmakers have adopted an A-F report card system for individual public schools.
A-F Report Cards in Oklahoma
The A-F metric on accountability report cards was first used in Florida in 1999 in response to the emphasis on improving accountability in education that began in the early 1990s. With the passage of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015, it became a requirement for states to adopt some variant of a grading metric. A total of 13 states use a form of the A-F system, including Oklahoma.
Oklahoma first adopted a law requiring the State Department of Education to create A-F report cards for schools and school districts in 2011. The original law required each entity annually be given a single score determined by standardized test scores as well as improvement metrics.
The Legislature most recently passed a law amending Oklahoma’s A-F reporting system in 2017. Recent changes have included:
- Clarifying the report card so it provides grades in five major categories in addition to an overall grade, including;
- Performance in statewide assessments
- Graduation rates
- Performance relative to statewide academic standards
- English language proficiency for English-as-a-second-language students
- An additional statewide measure of student success.
- Requiring report cards to list performance and improvement measures in English Language Arts, Math, and Science
- Requiring the State Board of Education to identify interventions that can be taken to improve educational outcomes instead of administering sanctions to schools and districts that underperform
- Bringing the accountability system in line with requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act
What Makes for a Successful Accountability System?
Successful accountability reports empower parents, local leaders, and state leaders to identify areas for improvement in Oklahoma’s educational system and highlight areas of success that can be replicated in other parts of the state. Research shows successful school accountability systems:
- Produce reports that are easy to find, read, and comprehend
- Provide meaningful data and metrics for use in comparing outcomes
- Cover a wide range of categories relevant to educational outcomes, such as student achievement, student academic growth, achievement gap closure, graduation rates, and postsecondary and career readiness
Strong school accountability systems empower partnerships between parents, schools, districts and the state, promote educational innovation and success, and foster an environment that rewards continual improvement so that Oklahoma can be prepared to meet the workforce demands of tomorrow’s economy.