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Barresi: Fifth, Eighth Grade Writing Scores Will Not Factor Into A-F Scores This Year

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi announced today the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) will withhold fifth- and eighth-grade writing scores from the calculation for the overall grade of this year's A-F school report cards.

Some districts expressed concern about the writing test scores earlier this summer when they saw many instances of across-the-board scores of the same numerical value from testing vendor CTB-McGraw Hill, a news release from OSDE said.

Preliminary figures indicate about 130 of approximately 430 contested test scores were changed, which represents about less than 1 percent of scores for all Oklahoma fifth- and eighth-grade students tested for writing, according to the release.

After further analyzing tests sent back to the testing vendor, combined with other factors, Barresi said she would rather there be no question of the validity of the A-F report cards.

“When compared to previous years, we are not seeing strong variation in the overall percentage of changed writing test scores when re-scored,” she said in a statement. “Nevertheless, we don't want there to be even a shadow of a doubt that our school report cards are accurate. A-F is our utmost tool in transparency as we report the academic achievement of students in local schools. Parents and community members use this information to help them see where their schools are excelling and where they need more help.”

According to the news release:

This school year was the first time that fifth- and eighth-graders took operational passage-based writing tests requiring them to use evidence to generate a persuasive argument. The scores would indicate that many students did not have experience using passages to support their original writing, and instead they copied large sections of the passages provided.

Across-the-board numerical scores also are unusual. Although CTB expressed confidence that tests were evaluated accurately, Barresi said she was determined not to compromise the legitimacy of the A-F school report cards.

She said the decision to not include writing scores in the overall A-F report card grade in no way diminishes the importance of writing or the need for strong writing instruction and a writing exam.

“Writing is a critical part of literacy and one of the most important skills a student must learn,” Barresi said. “No matter if students are going to college or into a career after high school, they must be able to express their own ideas in writing.”

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