Another Friday Memo from OSDE

stressed

Maybe it is just me, but I am growing increasingly frustrated at the growing trend of releasing important information just before holidays or late on Friday afternoons.

I feel like I am being talked down when I receive these government edicts so late in the week. It is obvious that the people issuing the information don’t want to have to “deal with” any potential questions or complaints. They hope we have gone home and won’t read whatever they have sent us until Monday morning.

So they send the bulletin out, stop answering the phones, turn off the lights, get in their cars, and quickly head home.

Our very own State Department of Education has made the practice of Friday afternoon memos a ritual.

Here is the one that school districts received at 3:06 this afternoon. I have highlighted certain pieces that I will address at the bottom of the bulletin.

SDE: Testing Updates

Dear Superintendents and District Test Coordinators,

Spring testing will soon be here. The Office of Accountability and Assessments wants to remind you of several updates regarding testing.

Grades 5 and 8 Writing Assessments

The statewide writing day for the grades 5 and 8 writing tests is Wednesday, February 26, 2014. Once again, students will be reading two passages and responding to a passage-based writing prompt. All students in attendance should be administered the test that day. Students who are absent may be administered the test as a makeup through Friday, March 7. Districts should then package all writing tests and ship them back to CTB for scoring.

Grade 3 Reading Test

Due to the implementation of the new third-grade reading portion of the Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA) law, the testing window has been abbreviated for the grade 3 Reading test. All students should test between April 10-23, including all makeups. This test is administered in a separate test book, and districts are asked to ship them to CTB immediately after the window ends on April 23 for scoring. CTB will be posting Student Roster Reports on their Web site for grade 3 Reading tests as they are processed. All districts should have final Reading scores posted by May 9, 2014.

Grades 5 Social Studies and Grade 8 U.S. History Assessments

The Oklahoma Academic Standards for Social Studies will be assessed for the first time in Spring 2014 for Grade 5 Social Studies and Grade 8 U.S. History. Standard setting for these new tests will occur in June 2014 with scores delayed until July. Raw scores in these subjects should not be used to determine proficiency on these tests. These assessments will be a part of the A-F Report Card for the 2013-2014 school year.

Grade 7 Geography: Eastern Hemisphere Assessment

The results of the spring 2013 assessment for Geography did not yield the statistical data required to produce a high quality assessment with valid and reliable results. Therefore, a sampling of students will be chosen to take part in a Oklahoma item tryout during the spring testing window of April 10- May 7, 2014. The state is currently working on this sampling plan and will notify districts in February if any of their schools will be included in the item tryout.

EOI ACE U.S. History Assessment

The OCCT ACE U.S. History test will fully assess the depth and rigor of the new Oklahoma Academic Standards for U.S. History for the first time in 2013-14. Students testing in the winter/trimester and spring testing windows will receive an immediate raw score, but complete student results will not be available until after standard setting in June. A raw score in this subject should not be used to determine proficiency on this test. This assessment will be a part of the A-F Report Card calculation for the 2013-2014 school year. It is recommended that OCCT second-time testers participate in the optional online retest window March 31-April 11. This test will be based on the content of the 2012-2013 assessment and will yield immediate raw scores and performance levels.

OMAAP Assessments

Beginning with the 2013-2014 school year, the OMAAP will not be an assessment option for grades 3-8 or first-time test takers for EOI. Students with disabilities who were previously eligible for alternate assessments based on modified academic achievement standards will be included in the OCCT general assessment based on grade-level academic achievement standards. Students who were previously administered the OMAAP EOIs during 2012-13 or earlier and did not attain at least a Satisfactory performance level will have the opportunity to retake an OMAAP in the same subject area in order to demonstrate proficiency or to apply a modified proficiency score.

CTB McGraw-Hill

For 2013-2014, CTB McGraw-Hill is the testing vendor for grades 3-8 and EOI for the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Tests (OCCT). This includes assessments in grades 3-8 for math and reading as well as writing, science, and social studies/history at specific grade levels, EOIs for Algebra I, Algebra II, geometry, English II, English III, biology I and U.S. history, and OMAAP for second-time testers in Algebra I, English II, biology I and U.S. history.

The state will be conducting Oklahoma item tryouts for new items aligned to the standards being implemented in 2014-2015 for college and career readiness for EOI Algebra I, Algebra II, geometry, English II and English III through CTB this spring. Currently, the state is working on a sampling plan and will notify districts/schools in February whether schools will take part in EOI math tryouts or a writing prompt. A sampling of students taking the Algebra I, Algebra II or geometry assessments will have a separate section to try out technology-enhanced items and extended-performance tasks. Likewise, a sampling of students taking the English II or English III assessment will have a separate section to respond to a passage-based online writing prompt. Only first-time testers currently enrolled in the class will be participating, and students will take only one subject sampling. Schools should test students in the item tryouts after completion of all operational assessments, and the window will be extended to Friday, May 23, 2014 to complete the item tryouts.

Upon contract renewal this summer, CTB will continue be the testing vendor in 2014-2015 for all EOI assessments as well as grade 5 Science and Social Studies, grade 7 Geography, and grade 8 Science and U.S. History.

Measured Progress

Measured Progress is the new testing vendor for the grades 3-8 Oklahoma College and Career Readiness Assessments (OCCRA) for math and English/language arts which will become an operational assessment in 2014-2015. The state will be conducting item tryouts through Measured Progress for items aligned to the new standards being implemented in 2014-2015 for college and career readiness in math, reading and writing. Items will be presented in a stand-alone paper/pencil format for grades 3-5 and in a one-section online format for grades 6-8. All students will tryout either math or reading items or a passage-based writing prompt. The state is currently working on the sampling plan and will notifying districts/schools in February as to the samples their schools will administer. All students at a site in the same grade will take the same subject sample. Students will not participate in more than one subject area and will respond to a limited number of items or a writing prompt. Measured Progress allows the use of iPads for online testing. If your district desires to use them for the item tryouts, please contact Kurt Bernhardt in the Office of Accountability and Assessments. Schools should test students in the item tryouts after completion of all operational assessments, and the window will be extended to Wednesday, May 21, 2014 to complete the item tryouts.

Since it is Friday afternoon, I am going to keep my comments brief for now.

1. Is it really necessary to advise school districts anymore that results will not be received until July? I cannot remember the last time we had results before August. Why can’t we do standard setting in late May or early June so districts could get results by June 15th? The law specifically states that the SDE is to provide final results within two weeks—it has never happened!

2. I expect the standard setting process for US History to go much like the one for Biology last summer. A committee of educators and psychometricians will come together and make a recommendation. Then the SDE will ignore this recommendation and set the cut score wherever they want to reflect the increased “rigor” of the new standards.

3. We already know that last year’s 7th grade geography test did not go well. Schools and teachers received no actionable data from these assessments. The same will happen once again this year. According to the SDE, they will be determining the sampling of students who will participate in this year’s field test in February. I sure hope they pick Jenks Middle School again. Our parents love field tests.

4. This sentence makes me ill: “The OCCT ACE U.S. History test will fully assess the depth and rigor of the new Oklahoma Academic Standards.” What does this even mean?

5. OMAAPs are gone. We know this means that fewer students on IEPs will be successful on state testing. This will definitely impact school A-F grades next fall since these students’ scores will count both in the “whole school performance” and both sets of growth calculations. It could be ugly.

6. For both the CTB and Measured Progress “item tryouts,” the SDE is extending the testing window until May 23 and May 21, respectively. They specifically say that the tryouts should occur after all of the operational tests.

This directly contradicts what was told to districts back in October relative to students taking the item tryouts during the same testing time, after completing the operational tests. Moreover, what about schools who administer large numbers of AP exams? These extra field tests will now interfere with student’s preparation for tests that truly matter, including subject-area final examinations for untested subjects. Additionally, it means more disrupted teaching and learning, less counseling services, more scheduling for test coordinators, the need for more test proctors, and computer labs tied up for an even longer period of time.

What about Superintendent Barresi’s claim to the Tulsa World in November that “Children will not be double-tested?” So taking two completely different tests from two different testing vendors at two different times is not double testing? How does she say things like this with a straight face.

This really does get me riled up. We are now to the point where nearly all of the last quarter of school is occupied by preparing for or taking tests.

As I have said in previous blogs, in the test-centric world of public schools today, real learning actually ends sometime shortly after spring break as the singular focus shifts to test prep. Once the four-week blitzkrieg of operational testing has been completed and students are completely fatigued by the whole ordeal, do we really think that any student is going to be motivated to do their best on these stand-alone field tests? That is a rhetorical question – the answer is no!

Despite our encouragement to parents to please allow their students to enjoy these wonderful new technology-enhanced assessments, I can envision a LARGE number of parents saying “no thanks,” and choosing to opt their students out. Many of the remaining students will give little effort to doing well on these tests. They know they don’t count. Again, most test vendors have abandoned this type of stand-alone field tests for this very reason. They provide lousy data!

Finally, do you remember what high schools are like during the month of May?

In addition to EOI and AP assessments, there are spring athletic playoffs, graduation planning and rehearsals, baccalaureate, prom, preparing for finals, and so on. And now the state wants to carve away even more time for testing!

I feel like sending someone a Friday afternoon memo!

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16 thoughts on “Another Friday Memo from OSDE

  1. Were any districts notified that their schools would be participating in the item tryouts? I was sure the memo would come today, the last day of February, in a Friday afternoon memo.

  2. “In fifth grade and eighth grade, they also take a US history and Writing test…”

    Students also take Science tests at these grade levels.

  3. Rob, You replied to a comment “The Feds require Alg I, Eng II, and Biology; the rest are state mandates.” I have never heard the Biology requirement, only the Alg I and Eng II. Do you have a source available to support this so I can use this information?
    Thank you for your information updates,
    C

    • The requirement for science was added to NCLB in 2007.

      Here is the info from the fed’s webpage: http://www2.ed.gov/nclb/accountability/ayp/testing-faq.html

      No Child Left Behind requires that, by the 2005-06 school year, each state must measure every child’s progress in reading and math in each of grades 3 through 8 and at least once during grades 10 through 12. In the meantime, each state must meet the requirements of the previous law reauthorizing ESEA (the Improving America’s Schools Act of 1994) for assessments in reading and math at three grade spans (3-5; 6-9; and 10-12). By school year 2007-2008, states must also have in place science assessments to be administered at least once during grades 3-5; grades 6-9; and grades 10-12. Further, states must ensure that districts administer tests of English proficiency–to measure oral language, reading and writing skills in English–to all limited English proficient students, as of the 2002-03 school year.

      Students may still undergo state assessments in other subject areas (i.e., history, geography and writing skills), if and when the state requires it. No Child Left Behind, however, requires assessments only in the areas of reading/language arts, math and science.

  4. How with amount of testing these children are receiving do you know which tests to even opt out of? How will the parents know if your child is being chosen or told to do
    the “try-out” testing. I appreciate you taking time to inform parents! Also, if everyone is saying that Common Core is “just standards” why is there soooo much controversy? I am not in favor of CC but am surprised by the amount of parents/educators that either are on favor or just do not speak out. I have contacted legislators but wonder how to make the biggest impact to actually not just complain but save our children’s education?

    • Schools are required to administer all of the tests mandated by the state. However, students and schools do not receive any scores from field tests or item tryouts, only the “operational” tests.

      Which tests students are required to take varies by grade. As a general rule, all students in grades 3-8 must take a reading and math test each year. This is a federal requirement. In fifth grade and eighth grade, they also take a US History and Writing test, and seventh graders take a geography test. These are additional state tests. For high school, students must take seven end of instruction (EOI) tests and have to pass the Alg I, Eng II, and two other EOIs to earn a diploma. The Feds require Alg I, Eng II, and Biology; the rest are state mandates.

      Since our state is transitioning from the old Oklahoma Core Curriculum Tests (OCCT) to the Oklahoma College and Career Readiness Assessments (OCCRA); this year students will have to take all of the regular tests PLUS the field tests for the new testing standards. The field tests do not count for accountability, students receive no scores, and school A-F grades are not affected.

      The field tests will be scheduled after the regular testing window. Your school should notify your child if they are chosen to participate. I encourage you to read the information on the various national websites to explore your options. A good site is unitedoptout.com.

      A good source of balanced information on the common core state standards is Diane Ravitch’s blog. She recently posted an excellent article on this topic. You can search for articles on her site: dianeravitch.net

      Hope this helps!

  5. My son began at the current school in OKC which is comprised of one school in one district last year. Discussion began then with our principal and superintendent. Both stated opting out was against state law. When questioned about the 95% rule, they stated it still wasn’t an option. We were directed to the state’s assistant superintendents office of special educational services who again reiterated the law. Any further advice? I appreciate your time.

    • It is against the law for the school to not offer your son the opportunity to test. It is NOT against the law for you to refuse. Simply write a letter stating you do not want you child to participate in state testing. Here is a website you might visit: http://unitedoptout.com

  6. You mention opting out of the testing. How do we, as parents, do this? We have an autistic 5th grader who will be required to take the 5th grade OCCT testing despite the fact that he is at a 2nd -3rd grade reading level and a 1st grade math level. I have asked Dr. Axtell for an exemption. She states this is against state law, and that if he is at school the test must be administered. She offers accommodations but clearly our situation is beyond accommodations. These tests provide absolutely no guidance for my son’s education, but instead take away from instruction time and are quite harmful to his perception of testing. I want testing that will help my son, not hinder it.

    • Speak with someone at your district office. Each district will have a protocol for parents to opt out. According to the OSDE, the school is required to give your son the chance to take the test but cannot force him to do so. They use the requirement that “95% of students must be tested” to force districts into compliance. Your son will not bring them below 95%. You have the choice!

  7. Although Supt. Baressi has problems , These tests are required by state law, and federal law. The next Superintendent will be back next year with the same tests. We will spend the same money and waste the same time testing.Some day lets let the teachers teach.

    • You’re right, Joe, yet our legislature could eliminate the US History, Geography, 5th and 8 grade Writing, and the Geometry, Alg II, US History, and English III EOIs. They could also limit the test time. My eighth grade students take over nine hours of tests. The ACT is only 3:40; the MCAT is just 4 1/2. How can we assess candidates for college or medical school in half the time needed to assess an 8th grader for high school?

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