In the next few days, parents of our students will receive a sheet of paper listing test results for their child. The results are from the mandatory Oklahoma School Testing Program assessments administered last spring. Given in grades 3-8 and 10, these tests measured knowledge and skills from the new and comprehensive Oklahoma Academic Standards, which were adopted in spring 2016 and first taught and assessed last school year. Additional results include those for science in grades 5, 8 and 10 and U.S. history in high school.
These results will look somewhat different than anything from the past. They are a significant departure from the over testing culture that had emerged in the last decade due to many competing factions. The standards by which we now measure our students were written by educators and parents from our state. They are designed to focus our instruction on skills and knowledge our kids will need for life after high school.
This has been a response to a gradual shift as we prepare tomorrow’s workforce. During my very first meeting with all teachers and staff as your superintendent in 2012, I spoke about the 4 c’s of skills needed today in the workplace. They are: 1) Critical thinking and problem solving; 2) Communication; 3) Collaboration; 4) Creativity and innovation. The goal of our shift in standards is to also increase the rigor of our instruction.
The standards have been one of the greatest sources of frustration with our teachers. On more than one occasion, this topic has led to lengthy discussions with staff, board members and parents. No parent or teacher wants to watch a student fail. The standards became a moving target, as well as the definition of proficient test results. One result of this yo-yo effect is too many students are required to take remedial college coursework once they leave high school. Remedial coursework is expensive and doesn’t count toward graduation.
Increasing the rigor is expected to reduce the number of students required to take the remedial courses. The impact on your child potentially is a lower score. For the spring 2017 test results, far fewer students will score Proficient or Advanced on the tests, which is the expected result of more comprehensive and challenging academic standards and assessments. The bar has been raised, with the definition of Proficient now meaning on track for college or career readiness.
Because the definition of proficient has once again changed, it is impossible to compare scores from last year. I can assure you this is frustrating for all of us. The true measure will come next year when we have comparison data to chart our growth.
If you are still reading, thank you and know that our teachers and staff are working very hard every day to make sure we are growing our students. This philosophy is spread across the district as we continue to make strides academically. Public education is the easiest way to break the cycle of poverty.
I wish each of you a happy holiday season as we enter our winter break.