TPS Superintendent Keith Ballard, Oklahoma State Department of Education spar over A-F grading

TULSA - The preview of a contentious new report card for Oklahoma school is causing some districts to attack the state's A through F grading system once again. 

Tulsa Public Schools sent a letter home to each parent Thursday criticizing the grading system. In the letter, TPS Superintendent Keith Ballard calls the system "seriously flawed," and "not ready for prime-time."

Ballard writes, "never in my career have I seen this level of dysfunction and ineptitude coming out of the Oklahoma State Department of Education."

Last week, every public school in Oklahoma got a look at their potential letter grade. Ballard and district officials say their grades were changed right before their eyes. Ballard says, "many of them watched in horror as grades that were initially posted as A's, B's and C's began to morph into C's, D's and F's."

The Oklahoma State Board of Education says a last-minute correction in the calculation resulted in errors that "subsequently had to be fixed." State Superintendent Janet Barresi said to keep transparency in the process, "the decision was made to leave grades up as they were modified."

In his letter, Ballard calls the apology feeble and says the serious miscalculations should have been caught before any grades were posted.

Some TPS parents agree and says the system needs another look.

"I don't know how fair the letter grading system really is. I mean it's hard to see a school with an A rating go down to a C or D right away. I really don't understand it...the system would need to be looked at," TPS parent Rob Aloisio said.

OSDE officials didn't take the criticism lying down, however, referring to Ballard's letter as inappropriately politicized at best. Department director of communications Phil Bacharach issued the following statement Thursday night in response:

"First, it is important to note that changes in the new law on the A-F Report Card have resulted in a grading formula that is more reflective of academic realities.

"With all due respect, given Dr. Ballard's stated political preference, this letter amounts to campaign material on school district letterhead. It's unfortunate that the head of a school district would undermine an initiative that gives parents information they need about how their child's school is doing. It's worse than unfortunate – and perhaps unconscionable -- that he would do so before the grades even come out. Given the academic challenges that exist in Tulsa Public Schools, this letter is disappointing. Tulsa schoolchildren deserve better."

The State Board of Education says schools will have until Oct. 28 to review and seek corrections on their potential grades before they go public.

The Board is set to meet the following day for final approval of the scores.

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