Session Begins (copy)

This is the last week of the legislative session at the Oklahoma Capitol. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World file

OKLAHOMA CITY — Legislation that state Superintendent Joy Hofmeister says is necessary to end “a culture of overtesting” for Oklahoma’s public schools passed the House of Representatives 95-1 on Monday.

House Bill 3218, by Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, would eliminate the state’s existing end-of-instruction tests for high school students and would reduce testing in the lower grades.

Under HB 3218, high school students would be given a single comprehensive assessment covering the state’s academic standards and a college readiness exam such as the ACT or SAT in the spring of their sophomore years.

Hofmeister said the results would be used to identify students’ strengths and weaknesses and plan their coursework for the final two years of high school.

“This opens up opportunities for better assessments that have greater value for parents and students,” Hofmeister said.

She said an emphasis on testing and accountability over the past decade has caused teachers to focus on the short term instead of on real learning and has not produced the desired results.

Remediation rates, especially in math, and college-entrance exam scores have been mostly unchanged, she said.

The legislation would require one English and one math test in each grade from 3 to 8; two science tests, one in grades 3-5 and one in grades 6-9; and the comprehensive high school test covering English, math, science and U.S. history.

“This bill will result in more classroom time for our teachers to teach and students to learn,” said Hickman. “It balances classroom time with accountability to ensure the billions of dollars Oklahoma taxpayers invest each year in our public schools is being used to improve the quality of education for our children.”

The bill, which was introduced Thursday, now goes to the Senate.

Aside from HB 3218 and a few other measures, the House largely marked time on Monday, awaiting an elusive budget agreement as Friday’s mandatory adjournment looms.

A few pieces of legislation did make it to the floor, including two — HB 3220 and SB 1602 — that were defeated on identical tallies of 44-48.

SB 1602 would have eliminated most education and experience requirements for directors of the Department of Corrections and the Office of Juvenile Affairs.

Neither of those agencies’ acting directors meets the current requirements, and Rep. Pat Ownbey, who carried the bill, argued that previous directors who did have the necessary credentials “did a lousy job running those departments.”

HB 3220, one of the late revenue bills introduced in recent days, would have allowed the courts to keep 15 percent of the fees they collect for other areas of government, including sheriff’s offices and district attorneys.

The bill also would have added $25 to the cost of a divorce filing and raised two other fees by $5 each.

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Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365

Randy has been with the Tulsa World since 1979. He is a native of Hinton, Okla., and graduate of Oklahoma State University. Krehbiel primarily covers government and politics. Phone: 918-581-8365

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