Union joins Jenks, Sand Springs boards in calling for education accountability changes
BY KIM ARCHER World Staff Writer
Monday, June 11, 2012
The Union school board Monday called for Gov. Mary Fallin and the state Legislature to develop a new public school accountability system in Oklahoma.
Rather than extensive standardized testing that board members say undermines educational quality and equity, they are calling for an accountability system that is based on multiple types of assessments reflecting the broad range of student learning.
The board unanimously approved a high-stakes testing resolution that also urges Congress to overhaul the No Child Left Behind Act to reduce testing mandates and promote multiple forms of evidence of student learning and school-quality accountability.
“The problem has reached almost epidemic proportions across the nation,” Superintendent Cathy Burden said, adding that the inappropriate use of standardized testing leads to unreliable results and is unfair to students.
The resolution says that “the over-emphasis on standardized testing has caused considerable collateral damage in too many schools, including narrowing the curriculum, teaching to the test, reducing love of learning, pushing students out of school, driving excellent teachers out of the profession, and undermining school climate.”
After the board approved the resolution, attendees gave a standing ovation.
The high-stakes portion of the Achieving Classroom Excellence law kicked in this year, requiring each high school senior to pass at least four of seven end-of-instruction tests before he or she can receive a high school diploma. Around 2,000 Oklahoma high school seniors did not meet that requirement this year, according to state Department of Education figures.
Also, the state Legislature passed a law last year that will require all third-graders to pass a specific reading test before being moved forward to fourth grade.
These laws and other reform measures have sparked the ire of educators statewide.
Burden said such testing “is leading us in the wrong direction.” It punishes students and doesn’t accurately reflect a child’s knowledge, she said.
Both the Jenks and Sand Springs school boards also have passed similar resolutions.
Sand Springs Superintendent Lloyd Snow said by email Monday evening that the resolutions are an attempt to apply common sense and to “quit labeling and sorting kids with high-stakes testing.” He also said educators want to stop sending limited resources to “big power private assessment vendors,” or testing companies.
The three Oklahoma school districts are joining more than 500 Texas school districts that have adopted similar resolutions calling on the federal government to reduce testing mandates.
Union board member Ed Payton said high-stakes testing costs millions of dollars and hundreds of hours that would be better spent instructing students. They reflect only a snapshot in time, not the whole of a student’s proficiency in a subject.
“These are not high standards,” he said. “They only address 25 percent of the curriculum.”
Union High School Principal Gart Morris reported that seven of Union’s students did not meet the ACE requirements to graduate this year. Five of those students continue to take alternate tests, but two have “dropped off the grid.”
“This is the message we are sending from the very beginning,” Burden said. “If those students are actually lost to us, we’ll be seeing dropout rates rise. And for what purpose?”