By February 9, 2017 Uncategorized 1 Comment

With this week’s state department test administrator training sessions, the anticipation for the upcoming spring testing season is already reaching a fever pitch in schools across Oklahoma.

Teachers are dusting off their “Buckle Down” test-prep books, testing “blueprints” are being reviewed, #2 pencils are being sharpened, kids are perfecting their “bubbling techniques” on countless practice tests, student information systems are being updated, test accommodation lists are being checked and rechecked, school computer labs are being prepped, testing schedules are being planned, grizzly bear response teams are being formed, test proctors are being recruited, and teachers in tested subjects are feeling like this:

It’s almost testing time, after all!

Been there. Done ALL that! (Well, maybe not the bear preparation part.)

The good news is that the official testing season in Oklahoma has been shortened this year. Paper and pencil testing will be between April 3 and April 21, with an extra week added to that for schools to complete online assessments.

This relatively brief frenzy of activity makes me wonder why we don’t handle all of our student “assessments” in the same way. If this high-stakes testing process works so well, why not adapt the model for athletics and other extracurricular activities?

  • Instead of dragging football season out for nearly the entire first semester, let’s have the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association (OSSAA) schedule all games to be played between August 25th and September 16th. All students enrolled in a high school on August 20th would be required to participate in at least one game, regardless of interest or physical attributes. Game scores will be calculated based on a comparative analysis of all scoring plays and will be posted on the OSSAA website with the state champions and final standings announced on December 1st. Teams which finish in the bottom five percent will be given a failing grade, have their coach fired and will be placed on a Team Improvement Plan (TIP) for two years. Teams that earn an F-grade two years in a row will be forced to turn in their gear and shut off the lights to their stadiums.
  • Boys’ and Girls’ basketball season will run from November 1st to November 20th. In order to maintain a high degree of rigor and fairness, all teams will be required to use a playbook published by the respective out-of-state vendor. Students will not be permitted to see the playbook prior to the competition. Coaches and directors may not be present during the competition. The scheduled basketball games will be overseen by volunteer “proctors” who may not assist the students in any way. Final scores and team standings will be based on the percentage of athletes with an improved free throw percentage from the previous year -disaggregated by ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and pizza preference.
  • All baseball and softball games will be played between April 15th and May 5th. Annual strike zones will be determined by a committee of baseball researchers and calculated as a rectangular prism that is .165 standard deviations from the mean in each direction. Balls, strikes, hits and runs will be determined from an ambiguous undisclosed statistical model developed by the baseball scoring vendor. Schools will be provided with preliminary results within two weeks. Final individual game scores and team records will be posted on October 1st of the next school year. To ensure students play their best, any student who fails to bat .300 in any season will be required to enroll in remedial bat-swinging the next year.
  • All band and vocal music competitions will be conducted between February 10 and March 15th. Judges’ scores will be tabulated and compiled with scores from comparable bands and choirs across the country. New cut scores will be developed annually and will be based on the difficulty and number of the musical selections. Scores from solo and group ensembles will be combined with scores from the marching band and color guard to determine a final rating. Bonus points will be awarded if the first chair of the school’s trumpet section can play all twenty-four notes of “Taps” flawlessly.  Competition results will be posted on July 4th. Students who do not earn a higher individual score than the previous year will be deducted from the overall team score. Any music teacher who has more than 20% of his or her students fail to achieve a computer-projected musical growth target will be placed on a plan for improvement for instructional ineffectiveness.

A list of state champions for all sports and extracurricular activities from the prior school year will be published on the OSSAA website not later than November 1st each year, providing adequate time for schools to review and file protests, which will be ignored.

Of course, the results of each of these school activities will then be narrowed down to one single, summative grade for the district and school. Joe Q. Public couldn’t possibly be expected to evaluate the quality of individual sports and activities based solely on information gathered about the one sport or activity in isolation.

Nope, people in Oklahoma nowadays like simple descriptors like “the weather today will be a C+.” They don’t really care about the temperature, if it’s going to be windy, or whether it might rain. That’s way too much information.

Anyhow, this final grade will be published without context in the local newspaper for comparison with other schools in completely different cities and towns filled with completely different children.

Admit it, this is a great plan that will simplify our school competition process and free up valuable time for more reading, math, and cool college and career-readiness stuff.

It may just be out-of-the-box enough to get some attention!

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