Some Oklahoma School Districts Not Making the Grade

11-30-05 - Low test scores and graduation rates prompted state education officials to order 22 Oklahoma school districts, including Oklahoma City and Tulsa, to improve based on federal No Child Left Behind standards.

Tulsa and Oklahoma City, the state's two largest districts, both were criticized for low graduation rates in a report presented to the state Board of Education on Tuesday.

Schools are graded on test scores, graduation rates and the number of students who take end-of-course tests. Those failing to meet those benchmarks for two consecutive years make the "needs improvement" list.

Appearing on the list a second year, but not showing improvement are: Commerce, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Western Heights.

Appearing on the list a second year, but showing improvement are: Broken Arrow, Cache, Cameron, Canadian, Crooked Oak, Edmond, Grandfield, Idabel, Keota, McCurtain, Midwest City-Del City, Millwood, Okmulgee, Pittsburg, Putnam City, Shawnee, Wynnewood, and Wynona.

The 22 school systems named Tuesday represent 4 percent of Oklahoma's 540 school districts.

If districts report a graduation rate of less than 68.8 percent in two consecutive years, they make the list. That was the case in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. At the end of the 2004-05 school year, graduation rates for the two districts were 67.5 and 64.5 percent, respectively.

Graduation rates for the 2003-04 school year were less than 68.8 percent, a state education spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Spokesmen from both districts said administrators are examining how to increase graduation rates.

Cordell Jordan with Oklahoma City Public Schools said most dropouts occur in his district at the end of the ninth-grade year. That is the year when the graduation-rate calculation begins.

He said the district will address the problem through dropout-recovery classes and alternative education programs.

After schools make improvements in their problem areas for two consecutive years, they are removed from the list. Such could be the case in many of these districts.

Jennifer Stegman, an assistant state schools superintendent, said 18 of the districts named Tuesday made progress on state-mandated tests this year. Another year of improvement, and they will be removed.