Oklahoma Fifth, Eighth Grade Writing Test Scores Tossed

Wednesday, June 3rd 2015, 1:39 pm

New problems are coming to light with state testing. This time, the problem is with writing tests that fifth and eighth graders took.

The State Department of Education is throwing out the results from Oklahoma writing tests because it considers them too unreliable to count.

It means these tests won't count for the second year in a row.

The state decided last year the scoring was unreliable and found the same problems again this year.

What's worse is the legislature didn't do anything to stop it from happening again next year.

While many issues with state testing revolve around technology, the problems with the writing tests are with the way they're scored.

According to the state, the problems are the same, despite changing test vendors, leading the State Department of Education to make this assessment of the test.

"We are saying these test scores are not reliable," said Phil Bacharach with the State Department of Education.

The state is throwing out scores from almost 100,000 students - the fifth and eighth graders who spent countless hours practicing and taking the tests.

The tests won't count for school grades, they never counted for student grades and they aren't much help for teachers because the final scores come six months after the tests are taken.

Tulsa Public Schools Testing Coordinator, Erin Lester said, "It is difficult to use when you get the scores, and your students aren't with you anymore - they've gone on to middle school or to sixth grade at the elementary level."

TPS got a look at the raw scores, which the district testing coordinator said looked about the same as last year.

They noticed good students scoring poorly, and poor students doing much better than expected; too much of a difference to conclude anything other than that test wasn't correctly scored.

"I think it's fair when it's not counted because the A-F report card is such a high stakes assessment for schools," Lester said.

The state superintendent asked the legislature to eliminate the writing test, but that didn't happen this year, leading the state to throw out the scores instead.

Bacharach said, "You can't make that reliable, accurate assessment if you're going to have an asterisk next to the score, it defies sense."

Wednesday the governor signed an order asking the education department to review the calculation of the A-F formula for possible changes.

She also signed a bill changing standards on the third-grade reading test. You can learn more about that bill here.