Even with 88 students taking Advanced Placement classes, Fort Gibson High School would flunk AP under new state guidelines.
So could Muskogee High School and many other Oklahoma schools.
An A-F school grading system, adopted in March by the Oklahoma Department of Education, gives schools with less than 30 percent participation in AP or other upper-level classes an “F” in that category.
The new A-F system replaces the Academic Performance Index, or API, which gave schools a numeric score of up to 1,500 points. API was based on student performance on state math and English tests, attendance, graduation and dropout rates.
Under the new system, part of a school’s “grade” is based on the percentage of high school students enrolled in AP or similar classes, concurrent college classes or career tech. A high school must have 70 percent participation to get an A in that area; 60 to 69 percent is a B, 50 to 59 percent is a C; 30 to 49 percent is a D. Anything below 30 percent merits an F.
“With the AP expectations, the bar is set extremely high,” said Fort Gibson School Superintendent Derald Glover.
Fort Gibson High School Principal Gary Sparks said 26 FGHS students are concurrently enrolled in college-level courses, and 27 attend Indian Capital Technology Center. This brings the total number of students in AP, concurrent enrollment and ICTC to 141, or 25 percent of the school’s 580 students, Sparks said.
AP or upper level course participation plays only a small part of a school’s overall grade, said Maridyth McBee, assistant state superintendent for academics and assessment. McBee said the AP expectations make up only 3 percent of a school’s cumulative letter grade.
“The major reason for the change is that we wanted indicators easy for parents to understand,” McBee said.
The new system replaces the API point system with letter grades. Schools making F grades will be designated as Priority Schools and given a list of improvements to make, said Tricia Pemberton, Department of Education communications specialist.
Schools making D grades would be listed as Targeted Intervention Schools, which would also get a list of improvements to make, though it would be shorter, she said.
The new system grades a school’s performance on a combination of the following factors:
• 33 percent on student test scores in grades three through 12.
• 17 percent on yearly student learning gains in reading and math for grades three through eight and Algebra and English II end of instruction tests for high school.
• 17 percent on annual student learning gains in reading and math (Algebra I or English II for high school) for the lowest 25 percent of the students, unless they are showing satisfactory performance.
• 33 percent on “whole student improvement, based on such factors as graduation rate; attendance; dropout rate; participation and performance in college entrance exams, Advanced Placement courses; concurrent college enrollment and industry certification courses; percentage of middle school (junior high) students scoring satisfactory in advanced, high school level classes.
About 350 of Muskogee High School’s 1,450 students take AP or concurrent enrollment classes, Principal Dewayne Pemberton said.
“Of course, freshmen cannot take AP, only pre-AP English, so it’s mostly juniors and seniors and some sophomores,” Pemberton said. He said MHS also is working with Connors State College to offer a concurrent class at MHS.
Fort Gibson AP History teacher George Kunsman said his two classes “go deeper than surface knowledge.”
“We get into the why’s something happened, the cause and effect,” he said.
However, students could easily pass his class, he said.
“If you do all the work and pay attention, it isn't hard to make an A or B,” said Kunsman, who teaches the class at Fort Gibson High School. “Kids are already passionate if they want to take the class.”
Middle schools also face stiff standards on participation in higher level courses. The state rules say middle schools with 30 percent or more students passing upper level classes would get an A in that category, schools with 14 percent or lower would get an F in that area.
“Thirty percent of the middle school is the equivalent of our eighth grade,” Glover said. “What does a high school level class look like in the middle school?”
In Muskogee, Alice Robertson Junior High offers high school level Algebra I, geometry and physical science, said Peggy Jones, assistant MPS director for curriculum and instruction. Also, Sadler Arts Academy offers Algebra I and geometry while Ben Franklin Science Academy offers Algebra I and physical science, she said.
Although such courses are offered at the middle school level, they are not always pushed, Jones said.
“Under ACE requirements, students still have to take three math classes,” Jones said. “Kids who are going into math will do great. But those whose interests are elsewhere could be hurt.”
Students who take Algebra I and geometry before high school would end up taking calculus, trigonometry and Algebra II, she said.
AR Principal Dr. Edwin Strickland said 110 out of the school’s 713 students, 15 percent, are taking the advanced classes.
Under the A-F rules, schools also may earn “extra credit” toward a better letter grade based on:
• A School Climate Survey.
• Parental involvement in schools.
• College preparatory courses.
• The number of graduates taking remediation in college science, math and English.
• The percentage of elementary students performing well in higher level course work.
Muskogee Schools already prepared a climate survey for teachers, parents and students, Jones said.
The school earns extra credit if 90 percent of the faculty, 20 percent of the students and 10 percent of the parents fill out the online survey.
Joyce Weston, MPS director of Title I and assessment, said each Muskogee school site should have it online by May 4.
Parents can take the survey at home or the BEST Center, Weston said. “Teachers and students can take it at their schools.”
The parent survey seeks such input as “parents are involved in decision making,” “students are treated with respect,” “parent involvement is invited,” Weston said.
The student survey is similar, she said.
The teacher survey seeks such input as “teachers work together by using student learning data to identify students in need of support.”