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Originally posted August 14, 2012
BY KIM ARCHER Tulsa World Staff Writer
(Reprinted with Permission. This is not an endorsement.)
The Owasso school board approved a resolution Monday protesting high-stakes testing for students, aligning the district with others across Oklahoma and the nation that contend that the exams are unfair, unreliable and punitive.
Owasso is the latest addition to a list of Tulsa-area school districts taking a stand against using the results of one exam as the basis for promotion or graduation.
In Oklahoma, high school seniors must pass at least four of seven exams to get a high school diploma. Beginning in the 2013-14 school year, third-graders will have to pass a reading exam to move on to the fourth grade.
Union, Jenks, Sand Springs and other districts also have adopted the resolution, which calls on state and federal officials to institute a different system of assessment and accountability.
The national push-back was sparked by growing frustration with what educators and parents see as a proliferation of high-stakes testing and the overuse of standardized tests.
The resolution was developed by the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, along with 12 other groups and education experts such as the National Education Association, Parents Across America, and the Forum for Education and Democracy.
More than 500 school boards across Texas have adopted the resolution, and educators in other states are following suit.
Owasso Superintendent Clark Ogilvie said the Oklahoma State School Boards Association has asked boards to adopt the resolution and is collecting them to urge legislators to reconsider the state school-accountability system to better reflect what students actually need to be college and career ready.
“This is a movement that is gaining a lot of momentum nationwide,” he said. “People are beginning to realize that the danger of placing so much emphasis on testing, particularly high-stakes type testing, is that teachers end up teaching to the test and do little else.”
Ogilvie said testing companies such as Pearson and McGraw are shaping the culture of our country.
“We’re really concerned about that. We feel like we should put the brakes on a little bit, step back and come up with some other criteria to get an adequate snapshot of what a child has learned other than just one test score,” he said.
Ogilvie said the Oklahoma State School Boards Association and school boards across the state hope state legislators will hear their concerns about the high-stakes testing climate.
“One thing about the Legislature is, I think, a lot of them haven’t darkened the door of a classroom since they were kids themselves,” said retired teacher and Owasso school board President Gail Ballinger.
“They don’t realize, as we educators do, that there are some kids that just can’t test well. And this is terribly unfair to them — to place that much emphasis, their whole future, on something that’s not an end-all.”
When Union’s school board passed the resolution in June, Superintendent Cathy Burden said testing should be just one element of many to create a picture of the whole child and that child’s progress during a school year.
“Teachers have an opportunity in the classroom to get a more robust picture of a child’s ability to learn,” Burden said. “For instance, you can’t evaluate a child’s problem-solving ability or creativity or ability to interact by a multiple-choice test. That is the expertise of a teacher.”
She suggests using narratives, portfolios of a student’s work, teacher assessments and other more creative, yet rigorous, tools to evaluate a student’s proficiency in addition to testing.
Burden said that in reality, high-stakes testing minimizes accountability by narrowing expectations to a single test score.
“We’re not able to focus on anything else because, in the name of accountability, we are going for a test score,” she said. “Everything else gets second shrift.”
However, Oklahoma State Superintendent Janet Barresi and other high-stakes testing advocates say these tests raise education standards and add value to high school diplomas.
The graduation-testing mandate ensures that Oklahoma students are prepared for the workforce and clarifies student expectations.
“I think this is a minimum requirement for Oklahoma to hand a diploma to a student,” Barresi told legislators at a state Senate Education Appropriations Committee hearing in January.