“Feeling down ‘n’ dirty, feeling kind of mean
I’ve been from one to another extreme
This time I had a good time, ain’t got time to wait
I wanna stick around till I can’t see straight

Fill my eyes with that double vision
No disguise for that double vision
Ooh, when it gets through to me, it’s always new to me
My double vision gets the best of me.”

“Double Vision” by Foreigner, 1978

For those of you old enough to recall hearing this song playing on the AM radio or ideally blaring forth from your 8-track tape player via 100-watt Jensen speakers (I loved those speakers), you probably occasionally get nostalgic about the “good old days.”

Remember the days when parents parented, teachers taught, and students learned. . .at least most of the time?

Incredibly, we did these things in the absence of State and Federal reforms like EOI graduation requirements, value-added teacher evaluations, A-F Report Cards, third grade retention, NCLB and RTTT. We didn’t need Teach for America, charter schools, vouchers, Jeb Bush, Michelle Rhea, Bill Gates, or Janet Barresi. We were college, career, and citizenship ready before it was cool – and before it was mandated by law!

Anyhow, let me bring you back to the words of the song. I experienced a little double vision about ten hours ago and honestly have not quite recovered. Several hundred of us had an opportunity to attend this morning’s OSDE Testing In-Service in Broken Arrow. This has become an annual ritual for District Assessment Directors and Site Testing Coordinators over the past dozen years.

Most of the presentation was the standard overview of testing schedules, policies, procedures, and guidelines. I got caught up on my email during this time. One big change we knew was coming was the elimination of modified testing (OMAAPs) for students on IEPs or 504-plans. We can all thank the Feds for this ridiculous change.

Then things got even more interesting.

Joyce DeFehr, the OSDE Executive Director of State Testing, seems to know her stuff. She always does a thorough job during these presentations. As always, she was articulate and well-prepared. For these reasons, I felt some empathy for her when she started to tap dance around the changes in store for Oklahoma schools this spring. I don’t blame her, she was just the messenger. These changes result from the rewriting of our state standards to align with CCSS and the creation of new testing requirements, as well as our withdrawal from the PARCC consortium this past summer. Like last year, this is all happening way too late.

However, in her attempt to disambiguate the current testing scenario for this spring’s grade 3-8 and EOI testing, Joyce may have muddied the waters even more.

Here’s what we now know:

The seventh grade geography test will not be a field test. To the contrary, it will be called an “Oklahoma Item Tryout.” At the same time, students and schools will not receive scores and the results will not be used for accountability. Huh, that seems just like last year. Do you think they changed the name so parents wouldn’t think this was another field test? It sure sounds like a field test to me.

You can call a duck an eagle, but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck!

Joyce did make mention of the publicity surrounding the opt outs from last year’s tests and underscored the importance of students “doing their best” so that the students in future classes will have high quality assessments. That’s what most students think about while they are taking these tests, right? I sure the following classes will seek out these students next year to thank them for these wonderful new assessments.

The bottom line is that parents are paying attention and won’t be fooled by simple semantics and double speak.

After this point is when my double vision came on suddenly. Many of us have been curious as to how the OSDE would handle the field testing of new items for the OAS-aligned assessments. The RFP for this testing contract was issued back in September and we will learn the identity of the winning bidder next week.

Joyce explained that because of technology differences and the enhanced format of the new assessments, the testing vendor will not be able to embed the field test questions in the operational tests as has been the previous practice before last year.

Are you still sitting down? If not, you may want to do so at this time.

What this all means is that, in all probability, we will have to schedule all of our students for TWO separate testing sessions for each subject, one operational and one a pilot (field test), in short— DOUBLE TESTING!

Joyce wasn’t certain if students would have to take additional field tests in all three subjects – writing, reading, and mathematics, or if different students would take different portions of the field tests. We will hopefully learn this next week. These individual pilot tests could be anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes in length and all will be online.

I’m not finished. We then learned that the EOI’s would follow the same format. With the exception of US History and Biology (new standards set last year), all of the other EOI assessments will have an additional field test component. So, not only will students sit for a three-hour test for Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, English II and/or English III, they will also be subjected to an additional 90-minute pilot of the new OCCRA assessment in that same subject.

Joyce did her best to put a positive spin on this but most of us left the meeting angry and confused. To steal a quote from John Stewart from a few days ago, there was no way that Joyce “could spin this turd!”

After my return to school, I sat down with my counselors and site testing coordinators to see how we can make this happen within the existing 20-day testing window. Based on our initial assessment, we don’t think it is possible. Jenks Middle School already administers over 6,500 individual student assessments during this 20-day window. We schedule two testing sessions each day and it takes us 18 days to complete all of the assessments using every computer currently available for testing at our site.

The OSDE has now said we may have to schedule somewhere between 2200 and 4000 additional field tests on top of what we are doing already. With our current capacity, we will need to add between 10 and 20 additional sessions, or about five to ten days of additional testing. It’s not possible. The only way to make this work will be to add days to the front or back of the testing window. In other words, take away even more instructional time from students to take tests that don’t count! More computer time and proctors to schedule, fewer counselors available for counseling, and less teaching and learning.

The high school will also face a time crunch because they have a large number of students who take AP exams immediately after the EOIs finish in early May. They will not have time to reschedule students for an additional field test. Students will have paid $80 to take these AP exams for which they can earn college credit. Do you think they really care about taking another field test that has absolutely no value for them?

Likewise, imagine yourself as a 14-year-old eighth grade student. Since the start the school year, you’ve taken probably a hundred subject-area benchmark tests, unit and chapter tests and quizzes in all of your courses. You’ve taken the ACT Explore test, the OCCT Writing assessment, the OCCT Science test, the OCCT US History Test, the online OCCT Reading test, the online OCCT Math test, and (for most students at Jenks Middle School) an additional EOI math test.

After you finish all of this, we ask you to come back to the computer lab to take some fun new field tests consisting of more difficult test items and processes. You will surely be aware by this point that these scores don’t count for anything. You’re tired of sitting at a table staring at a laptop. You’re frustrated by having to miss electives and constantly prepping for tests. Summer is just a few weeks away and you’re weary of school, especially after four weeks of testing and disrupted learning. You’re mad enough that you’re now seeing double-double tests-that is!

We will ask you to do your best so that students in future years can benefit from these wonderful new assessments. We’ll urge you to take your time, work through each of the questions and pretend like it really matters. We’ll remind you that being good at taking tests is vital to success in life and to becoming college, career, and citizenship ready.

It’s not going to work. There is simply no way to put a positive spin on this turd.