The Pryor Times

Opinion

April 2, 2013

The school testing abyss



Last week I received an email from a near-frantic educator. The email advised that schools had yet to receive practice materials for required state writing exams - scheduled for the following week. In other words, just days before the exam the preparation materials had yet to be made available to teachers. Within 24 hours it was learned this problem existed all over the state.

Though the preparation materials were received the following day, leadership at the Department of Education was dismissive, blaming it on the vendor.  The Department's Communiation Director, Sherry Fair, commented, "We understand its a hardship, but its not an uexpected one." What? Really?

One might be tempted to ask, "What's the big deal? Shouldn't the students be prepared anyway?" And therein lies the difficulty created by our testing abyss that creates a never ending focus on the tests. Did you know that the scores on these tests impact the A-F school grading system heralded and championed by State School Supt. Barressi? And did you know that certain teacher incentives and pay bonuses are rooted in the scores on these tests?

With the emphasis placed on testing by legislation pushed by the Supt. Barressi since her election, it’s hard to believe that practice materials were only made available a week before the test. And it’s ludicrous to conclude that educators have any alternative than to "teach to the test."

If the State Department thinks this miscue on test preparation materials is to be expected, then the State Department of Education then it is a party to a conspiracy of failure.

One of my primary concerns with the onslaught of testing has been the "kick the cat" mentality it creates. This mentality manifests itself in a public discourse that lends credence to the myth, yes myth, of public school failure. By delaying the practice materials, it sets the stage for "kicking the cat" as students have less time to prepare.

Please let me hear from you regarding any questions or concerns about matters on the State level. I can be reached at (800) 522-8502 or bensherrer@okhouse.gov. Until next week, God bless you.

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