Part II: OEA Encourages Officials to Support HB 2625: Do What Is Best for Children

A CHILD IS MORE THAN A TEST SCORE

Oklahoma City – Earlier today the State Department of Education released results for the third grade high-stakes reading test announcing that 7,970 (15.7 percent) students scored Unsatisfactory and are now facing retention. Then a few hours later, the SDE published districts’ results on their website; not allowing time for administrators to notify students and families who are affected, creating even more confusion and anxiety.

“I have several concerns with the information we received from the Department of Education. Regrettably, as of today almost 8,000 of our eight and nine year-olds have been labeled as failures based on an unjust testing process. On a personal note one of the 7,970 students is my grandson who scored Unsatisfactory by 10 points even though his family has paid for private tutoring and his teachers have spent hours working with him. Sadly, the test anxiety he and his family have felt for months won out,” said Linda Hampton, Oklahoma Education Association President.

Educators support assessments designed to assist with identifying students’ strengths and weaknesses in core subjects with the purpose to improve instruction and learning. However, the current third grade reading test is not designed for that purpose, but more to label and punish students, teachers and districts. Many educators have questioned the validity of the current reading test stating it is a test of grammar structure, which is typically taught in higher grades, than reading.

Superintendent Barresi stated the percent of students who scored Unsatisfactory was less than “doomsday predictions.” Unfortunately, that is incorrect and there are almost 3,000 more students who now face retention than anticipated by the Oklahoma Policy Institute and the OEA, who based predictions on previous years’ test results.

“Supt. Barresi can try to pass the third grade reading retention based on the reading test as good policy but to educators the bottom line is we are leaving students behind and that is unacceptable. Our schools have put all efforts into meeting these recent mandated reforms, yet education funding has constantly been cut. Something has got to change,” Hampton said.

Oklahoma’s two largest school districts have the highest percentages of third grade students facing retention due to obvious factors of having the most students, over-crowded classrooms and severe teacher shortages.

“When you cut funding and resources to a district, you have to expect that performance is going to suffer. We have a teacher shortage, a direct result of the lack of support for teachers, and many classes are being taught by substitute teachers. Until the state decides to make a real investment in education, students are going to suffer,” said Patti Ferguson-Palmer, Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association.  

Barresi also stated the SDE will do everything possible to support efforts to ensure students have the earliest chance of promotion once they read on grade level; and that some districts may consider mid-year promotion. If true, these methods may serve as a domino effect of student retention and lagging behind on other grade level skills.

OEA will continue to encourage members, parents and education advocates to contact their legislators requesting support of HB 2625, as well as, join many others on Monday at 1 p.m., at the Capitol to rally support for this proposed legislation.

 

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