Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Bill to End High-Stakes for Testing? Please DON'T Wake Me if I'm Dreaming!

A little history…I participated in the infamous ‘public comments’ meeting in 2012 at the OSDE when comments were ‘sought’ about the bill that established school grades based on test scores. I didn’t mean to participate…there was a sign-in sheet and I signed it. Come to find out I signed up to speak.

Even though comments were sought by the Oklahoma State School Board, not one member was present. Superintendent Barresi was in the building, but in another ‘very important’ meeting.  Superintendent Barresi DID send her lawyer with a tape recorder. She promised to send a tape (does anyone have a tape player anymore??) to all Board members and they would (she promised) listen to the hours of comments.

I had written – and delivered – my comments in writing, and had a copy with me. I listened to legislators, superintendents, principals, personnel officers, parents, all speak – to a one against the bill for lots of complicated reasons.

I was against it for one reason, a reason no one else mentioned: the abuse of standardized tests and scores. I know – but most have given up the fight – we are abusing and misusing test scores any time we attach high stakes to the outcomes. A-F does that; so does the third grade flunk law, and the ACE law that requires high school students to pass all their classes, collect credits toward graduation AND pass End of Instruction exams as well.

I ended my remarks with an allusion to the mythological Cassandra, the Trojan princess who was cursed with the ability to see the future, and the double curse of having no one believe her. I told the group…and the tape recorder…I stood there as Cassandra, and that high stakes testing was destined to fail.
I have written about the testing meltdowns from last year, when school districts were blamed for the problems of testing corporations.

I have read everything I can get my hands on about standardized testing…some of the best books are The Myths of Standardized Tests by Harris, Making the Grades by Farley, and Reign of Error by my hero Diane Ravitch.

Imagine my glee when I read about a new bill being introduced. Dare I believe things may be changing?

HB2734, introduced by Democrat Representative Curtis McDaniel, would, if passed, remove the high stakes to tests in our state. Under his proposal, the third grade reading test and the End of Instruction exams will still be administered, and results would be reported within 2 weeks (that actually isn’t new, but somehow it’s been neatly ignored by policy makers for years). EOIs will still be administered online, and students will receive their raw score immediately. But no third grader will be retained based on this score, and no high school senior will be denied his or her diploma because of EOI scores. This is huge – parents and teachers must support this bill and help the author get it passed.

The biggest change is striking down all punitive results of test scores. Rep. McDaniel’s bill puts testing back in its proper place – one piece of information at educators’ hands. One assessment that will yield information that may or may not be useful when planning instruction.

This bill, like many, has been called by its author, District 1 Republican representative for LeFlore and McCurtain counties, an emergency. Unlike other bills which seem so frivolous with this label, I heartily agree…getting rid of high stakes testing is an emergency in our children’s lives. As a member of the Common Education Committee, Rep. McDaniel has seen recent movements to define children and their potential based on one test, one day in April (or March or May), and I assume he’s had enough.

If you care about children in Oklahoma, contact Representative McDaniel –, and thank him for his courageous leadership. I’m sure the OSDE will not look at his bill with the same excitement I do…I’m sure there will be attempts to quiet him, to shut the bill down.

This is NOT the direction predatory reformers want this narrative to go. So, it’s up to us. Write to Rep. McDaniel. Offer your stories of testing woes, stressed children. Offer your support and help bringing this bill through the Education Committee and onto the floor of the House.


  1. I am new to your excellent observations.I enjoyed your piece in The Observer.I spent most of the day on HB2734. May I suggest 50 word statements, one a day , that make a data based point that educates the reader and that the reader can use to answer an an opposing point. To Blackwell Cannaday Condit Cox Dewitt C. & J. McDaniel Roberts and Virgin. Be nice. This is already too long. I should have made two messages.

    1. Tell me more...kind of a daily email to Legislators? Thanks for your words...I appreciate them.

      What do YOU see as the salient points? Maybe be can work on this together.

  2. 3rd grade high stakes test, just saying that is ugly.
    The test may not be a good test.
    Could you be in the room when principal tells a child -you have failed and not cry.Will the principal cry?
    Data showing retaining does not work
    Why the trauma if every child will pass.
    The few children that are humiliated. are so fragile
    The algebra I cut score is so low..
    The chamber of commerce and Gov Henry crammed Ace into Law.( further discussion not to be in writing by me)
    Only teacher generated tests are useful to the students.
    Bill Gates terrorized teacher

    do not whine or ask for money
    assume the legislator gets 20 e-mails from constituents % 50 from others, each day,get out your journalism text book
    Joe Eddins, Vinita Ok. 918-256-2205

  3. I was able to visit with Rep McDaniels on the telephone. It took three days and a referral from my Rep. He received l,000 e-mails some days last session. Without details, he ?was very busy last week.He gets 100s of e-mails each day? Unless I, you, we, - very carefully plan a strategy , a message quite likely will not be carefully considered by any one. I suggest because "you never get a second chance to make a first impression " when they get your message it needs to be short, with a narrow focus. Must be useful information that can be used as a point for debate.
    I have broken my rule,This is too long. I hope you will continue this discussion Joe Eddins, Vinita