A recent overhaul of Oklahoma’s state assessments and school accountability system means a longer wait for districts and parents to see the results of their students’ test scores and school report cards.
The changes to state assessments include the omission of a U.S. history test for the 2017-18 school year and the addition of a science test for 11th-graders, who will also take either the SAT or ACT to meet state testing requirements.
Educators were updated on the new assessments and school accountability system last week during the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s annual, traveling conference, called EngageOK.
That’s when a number of educators were also apparently caught off guard by news that a U.S. history test would not be administered in high schools in the spring.
State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister has been responding to questions and concerns from teachers who were surprised by the omission of that test from next year’s state assessment schedule.
“The Oklahoma State Department of Education and content experts/practitioners are in the process of developing a US History assessment that more accurately reflects the breadth and scope of the subject to assure students are college- and career-ready,” Hofmeister said. “The work began within the last year to prepare for the test item development process. Current 11th and 12th grade students have fulfilled the requirement that all students take a U.S. History assessment once in high school except for those exempted by law (such as transfer students from out of state).”
One of the state conference stops was at Tulsa’s Union High School on Tuesday.
Todd Nelson, senior executive director of teaching and learning at Union Public Schools, said the change in the U.S. History test was “new information” but won’t alter his district’s instruction plan at all.
“At Union High School, U.S. History is generally taught to sophomores, along with a limited number of juniors and seniors, and we will continue with that plan in 2017-18,” Nelson said.
On Wednesday, the state department plans to report to school districts assessment results showing whether third-graders met the Reading Sufficiency Act’s criteria, which is used to determine whether a student is ready to move on to fourth grade.
Results of the rest of the state assessments that students took in the spring will be reported to school districts Oct. 11, and school report cards based on the state’s new accountability system are expected to be released in March.
Because of the delay in reporting RSA scores, the Oklahoma State Department of Education has encouraged school districts to use other tools to determine whether third-graders are ready to move on to fourth grade this year, said Jeanene Barnett, the department’s deputy superintendent for assessments and accountability.
Teachers can use other mechanisms, such as alternate screening assessments, to measure whether a student is reading on grade-level. But RSA results are being released to school districts before results of other state assessments this year because schools need to have that information before the next school year starts in August, Barnett said.
Tulsa Public Schools has decided which third-graders are ready to be promoted to fourth grade in the 2017-18 school year based on whether those students have met grade-level requirements on the MAP assessment, a math and reading achievement test the school district has administered for several years, said Erin Lester, the district’s director of educational indicators.
The state has yet to set the cut scores, or the basis on which a student’s performance is measured, for the other state assessments students took in the spring, Barnett said.
During the week of Aug. 8, a team of 121 educators from across Oklahoma will work with out-of-state psychometricians to develop recommendations for those cut scores, which will be submitted for approval by the Commission for Educational Quality and Accountability.
“That’s why it won’t be until Oct. 11 that all of the rest of the scores will be reported,” Barnett explained. “And that is extremely late, and it won’t happen again if we continue with the same standards and assessments that we’ve had.”
In the future, preliminary reports on student assessments can be expected to be received by school districts before June 1, Barnett said.