The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

July 10, 2013

Barresi’s plan for testing under fire

Muskogee Phoenix / CNHI News Service

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi’s recent announcement that the state would back out of a standardized testing consortium and develop its own system for gauging student progress is meeting criticism.

Problems with the current computer-generated testing system were reported throughout Oklahoma this past spring, as well as in several other states. Some students were required to retake entire tests, but others only had to restart their computers and proceed from where the glitch occurred.

According to a report by The Associated Press, Barresi cited parental concerns, technological readiness of the public schools and higher anticipated costs as reasons for her decision.

Oklahoma is a member of the multistate Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. A recent state survey found only 33 percent of school sites in Oklahoma are technologically prepared for PARCC testing. Barresi said the technological shortfall could prevent districts from meeting Common Core Standards by 2015.

Barresi is up for re-election in 2014, and one state lawmaker believes her move is politically motivated. Rep. Mike Brown, D-Tahlequah, said Barresi is “attempting to blame schools for lack of preparedness on their part with regard to technology.”

Sen. Earl Garrison, D-Muskogee, has 44 years’ experience as a teacher, from elementary school to higher education to career tech. He said he would favor moving out of the consortium, with one caveat.

“I’m in favor of that as long as they’ll go to OU or OSU and involve their testing people in constructing new testing instruments,” he said. “They (State Board of Education members) don’t have the expertise up there to do it on their own.”

Garrison said skilled input is needed to get accurate testing results.

“If you’re going to hold a school accountable on how kids do, you have to manage control variables,” he said. “If you don’t control for single-parent homes, poverty, etc., your data is bad.”

Garrison is also concerned about the cost of contracting with a new company.

“I’m not going to sign off on providing $100,000 to bring people in to do it,” he said. “It would be a wonderful project for those universities and graduate students in Oklahoma.”

Garrison said the glitches in testing caused irreparable damage.

“I think they ought to throw all the tests out this year,” he said. “Those scores will be worse than worthless. Poor data is worse than no data. (Barresi) ought to throw all that out and just forget about it.”