Reformer ToolboxLogin

CancelLost your password?

Ain’t schools grand in Oklahoma!

• Mike Thomas

Now I understand all the protests over Oklahoma’s school grading system.

It is very misleading, although not for the reasons cited by the school superintendents. The state awarded 160 schools an A and only 9 got an F?

This is more than a 10-1 ratio of excellence to failure.

More than 90 percent of schools across the state received a grade of C or higher, with almost half receiving a B.

And the superintendents thought this was harsh?  I wish these guys would do my job review.

Schools in Lake Wobegon don’t get grades like this.

You want harsh, you should have been in Florida when it released its first batch of school grades in 1999. More schools received D’s and F’s than A’s and B’s.  Seventy-nine percent received a C or below. As Florida understood, a major reason behind grades is to identify failure and mediocrity so it can be eliminated. They are not for making school superintendents look good.

The Oklahoman pointed the obvious in a very understated manner: “If anything,’’ the newspaper said, “the extremely low number of F schools suggests the school grading system may be too lenient, not too harsh.’’

Yet the school superintendents accused the Oklahoma Board of Education of playing politics for not opting for an even more inflated grading system.

This irked retired Gen. Lee Baxter, a member of the Board.

“When we get to the position to where we’re being attacked because we’re somehow pawns in the political system, that’s offensive to me — maybe insulting,” said Gen. Baxter. “We ain’t (ranked) 47th (nationally) because of me. We’re not 47th because of this board. You were 47th when I got here.”

Generals are allowed to say “ain’t.’’

Oklahoma is to be commended for taking this all-important first step. Now it needs to start raising the bar and making those A’s harder to come by.

About the author

Mike Thomas @MikeThomasTweet

Mike Thomas serves in the communications department, writing editorials and speeches. Prior to joining the Foundation, Mike worked for more than 30 years as a journalist with Florida Today and the Orlando Sentinel. He has written investigative projects, magazine feature stories, humor pieces, editorials and local columns. He won several state and national awards, and was named a finalist in the American Society of New Editors’ Distinguished Writing Award for Commentary/Column Writing in 2010. As a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel, he wrote extensively about education reform, becoming one of its chief advocates in the Florida media. Mike graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in political science and journalism. His wife is a teacher and he has two children in public schools. Contact Mike at