Educate Oklahoma: Standardized Testing

Thursday, August 25th 2016, 4:13 pm
By: News On 6

For years, the sheer amount of standardized testing in schools caused controversy, but the federal "Every Student Succeeds Act" put the ball back in Oklahoma's court.

State lawmakers are now taking a bare bones approach to testing.

"The biggest issue with testing is that we were doing it for purposes beyond what's best for students," said Joy Hofmeister, state school superintendent.

Many people might say Oklahoma students and teachers were forced to bite off more than they could chew.

"Well, it puts a great deal of stress on the student because the students understand that these are high stakes tests," said Dr. Teresa Debacker, Oklahoma State Testing.

"Everybody knows a teacher who has sort of reached a point of burnout."

Think of past testing requirements like building a sandwich. The No Child Left Behind act required federal testing in schools - that's the bread. 

As the stakes changed, the states upped the ante - and instead of just toast for lunch, now students needed something more substantial, so Oklahoma added their own requirements. Then the sandwich became more involved when districts added the toppings: their own layer of testing requirements. 

In the end, students were taking up to 36 tests before graduation.

That brings us back to the toast.

"This year we will only be giving assessments that are federally required," Hofmeister said.

The new state testing requirements mean each Oklahoma student will only need to take 18 tests plus a college-readiness test like the SAT or ACT before graduation. That cuts the requirements almost in half. Educators say it's a change 

that could help steer Oklahoma students in the right direction.

"Now we're going to focus on learning and then we're going to measure that. But we don't need to do that over and over," Hofmeister said.

So what tests will your child need to take to graduate?

Students will still begin testing in third grade each year until eighth-grade students will be required to take one test in math, and one test in English/Language arts.  That's 12 tests.

Students will also take science tests in fifth and eighth grade, and in high school students will have to take one math, one English, one science and one U.S. History test, before they take their college readiness SAT or ACT. 

"What we want is for a return of focus on the foundations of learning, and then let's examine that with a snapshot of how students are doing in the spring," said Oklahoma Superintendent of Schools Joy Hofmeister.

These new tests will ultimately be designed by Oklahoma educators, and leaders in the field see them as an opportunity.

"Having been given local control, we can create assessments that really reflect what parents and educators and other stakeholders in education think are important content, knowledge and important skills for learners to have," said Dr. Teresa Debacker, Oklahoma State Testing.

"Then if we're 'teaching to the test,' it's really not such a bad thing."