Barnsdall to invest in curriculum

Robert Smith

BARNSDALL — Barnsdall Public Schools is treating the school district’s grades on the newly released Oklahoma School Report Cards as a compelling reason to make improvements, including the purchase of new curriculum resources.

Barnsdall, a small district with fewer than 500 students in 2018, received a “D” for its elementary school for 2018, an “F” for middle school grades and a “D” for high school.

Superintendent Jeff Lay said that he and Barnsdall’s school principals plan to offer the public a briefing on the school report cards as one element of an event the school district is planning for 5:30 to 8 p.m. March 14, at the Elementary cafeteria/gym.

The overall event will be a Family STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and Literacy Night, but Lay and the principals will offer parents and community members information about the state report cards, about school finances and about an ongoing bond-issue project before the academic portion of the event begins.

Lay noted, in a telephone interview, the report cards result from a federal mandate that schools must be graded. Oklahoma’s school report cards are the instrument this state uses to comply with the mandate.

While the report cards are not a new tool, the 2018 academic year report cards developed by the Oklahoma State Department of Education are being touted as a more complex, more accurate reflection of how schools are performing. Lay said Barnsdall Public Schools desires to be accountable for the service it delivers to its community and will be striving to make adjustments.

“We learn each time the state comes up with a report card,” he said. “It takes time to adjust to the new measures.”

Lay said Barnsdall has suffered as a result of the statewide teacher shortage and exodus. Some 30,000 teachers have left Oklahoma in the past half-dozen years, he said.

Sayra Bryant, who is principal for grades 7-12, said she has had a different math teacher for grades 7-8 every year since 2014. It has been impossible to find a highly qualified math teacher for those grades during that time period, she said. Lay is teaching math for eighth-graders and the district has located what Lay described as an “exceptional” teacher to handle seventh-grade math, but the school district is working on her certification.

Another challenge Barnsdall Public Schools is facing is to spend money to upgrade its curriculum resources. While academic standards and student performance assessments have continued to change, the district has used the same curriculum, Lay said, citing financial constraints associated with the state school funding process.

“Regardless of what it costs, we are going to update our curriculum to match the standards we are being assessed with,” Lay said.

“The good news is up is the best direction to go,” Bryant said. She also addressed the need for parents and students to understand that the new Oklahoma School Report Cards are partially based on school attendance data, and districts lose valuable points for report card purposes when students miss school.

Students cannot miss more than seven days of school per semester without costing the school district points. It doesn’t matter if the absences are validated with doctor notes and classified by the school district as “excused,” Bryant said. At both the junior high and high school levels on the 2018 report cards, Barnsdall schools received just 3 of 10 points available in the attendance category, she said.