The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 16, 2013

Educators: New Oklahoma school tests excessive

From The Associated Press

TULSA, Okla. — Oklahoma schools and students will be in a “perpetual state of testing” when new K-12 standardized testing begins in 2014-15, educators say.

Through written guidance sent to schools last week, school administrators learned that all third- to 11th-grade students will take nine online tests — each around an hour in length — for English and math under the new testing system.

Five of the nine will be in English, and four will be in math. Those tests will replace the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Tests in the two subjects. Students now take one test in English and one in math.

“Not only are the technology demands difficult to meet, the actual testing requirements are excessive,” Jenks Middle School Principal Rob Miller said. The additional tests are on top of those students must take in other subjects.

At his school alone, Miller estimates, 20,000 tests will be administered in the first year of the new assessments and will require around 400 test monitors.

The new tests, called Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers - or PARCC - tests, will be implemented in 2014-15 in conjunction with Oklahoma’s implementation of new statewide curriculum standards called Common Core State Standards.

According to the PARCC guidance information, third-graders will take nine tests that will take around 50 minutes each in reading and math. Fourth- through 11th-graders will take nine assessments on the two subjects, adding up to more than nine hours of testing.

“Can we really envision an average 8-year-old sitting for eight hours of online testing, especially with the added stress of possible retention?” Miller asked, referring to a new Oklahoma law requiring schools to retain third-graders beginning in 2013-14 if they don’t pass a specific reading test.

Sand Springs Superintendent Lloyd Snow said that “we don’t need more tests. We should be focused on robust teaching and learning.”

Jenni White, a former teacher and president of Restore Oklahoma Public Education, said the addition of these new assessments will further chip away at the time teachers have to actually teach students.

“It’s crazy. You can’t teach a child to learn by giving them a test,” she said.

“Is this truly the future of schools in Oklahoma?” Miller asked. “If yes, our biggest challenge in the next five to 10 years will be retention of teachers and administrators.”

Oklahoma State Department of Education Communications Director Sherry Fair said the new tests are being brought in to align with the more rigorous English and math curriculum standards that kick in that year.

The tests require more time because they will assess students’ ability to apply knowledge through critical thinking skills, she said.

“We’re not going to ask (students) to fill in bubbles,” Fair said.

For instance, students in English will be given a narrative to read and be asked to draw conclusions and compose an answer, she said. In math, they will be asked to solve a complex problem, show their work and, in some cases, defend their work.

“There are longer times; however, they are not one great big, long session,” Fair said. “We’re giving them time to think. That allows them time to be more successful on the tests and for us to assess what they’ve learned.”


AP Source: Tulsa World