Charges of grade inflation swirl over Omaha school board meeting

Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog

As charges of grade inflation continue to swirl around Omaha Public Schools, the board appears ready to talk up its overall plan for dishing out A’s-B’s-C’s-D’s and F’s.

According to OPS’ Monday agenda, Superintendent Mark Evans will discuss “Moving to Standards Based Grading.” It’s not clear if the possibilities of grade puffing will come up.

KOIL radio’s Tom Becka has disclosed documents indicating that a dozen unnamed OPS students were recently allowed to graduate despite bad test scores and poor grades.

“The student has passed some of the tests, but not all of the tests,” OPS’ Dr. ReNae Kehrberg tells KETV.

Nebraska Watchdog has specifically asked OPS if it considers the grade inflation charges “much ado about nothing.” OPS has not responded.

The accusations are shedding new light on an exclusive Nebraska Watchdog investigation examining the lack of flunking at OPS.

Nebraska Watchdog reported in January that flunking at OPS is truly old school.

According to records obtained through a state public records request, two years ago out of 3,347 seventh-graders at OPS one flunked: that’s right one. Ten years ago 55 OPS seventh-graders flunked.

Officials have insisted OPS’s decade-move away from flunking is the right move.

“Retention is not a good strategy,” Carla Noerrlinger, OPS Executive Director for Research, told Nebraska Watchdog.

Earlier this year some state lawmakers backed an unsuccessful plan reinstating flunking, specifically for third-graders with severe reading problems.

Former State Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh worries that third-graders who don’t read at grade level won’t catch-up if they aren’t held back.

According to the Nebraska Department of Education’s numbers, many OPS third-graders have plenty of catching-up to do.

For the 2012-2013 school year 38 percent of OPS third-graders— 1,541— did not meet the state’s reading standards.

How many of those third-graders flunked? According to Nebraska Watchdog’s investigation, six.

But the numbers don’t say which students flunked. Maybe it was those with reading problems, maybe not.

As for those OPS seventh-graders from two years ago—remember only one flunked compared to 55 in 2002— when they got to eighth-grade 37 percent did not meet the state’s reading requirements.

School Board President Justin Wayne has called for an independent investigation into OPS’ grading system.

Contact Joe Jordan at joe@nebraskawatchdog.org.

Joe can be heard on Omaha’s KFAB radio every Monday morning at 7:40, KLIN in Lincoln every Tuesday morning at 7:35 and KHAS-AM in Hastings every Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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