The expected decrease doesn't mean students are less skilled or schools or teachers are less effective, department officials emphasized. Rather, it will reflect how Oklahoma's scores have been recalibrated to align with national data and assessments.
OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Department of Education is warning that soon-to-be-released student test results aligned to Oklahoma’s new academic standards will be a shock to the system.
“This is a total reset,” said Joy Hofmeister, state superintendent of public education, during a media-only briefing Tuesday at the Capitol. She cautioned student academic proficiency rates are expected to be significantly lower than in previous years.
“Those parents who may have had a student who was advanced, he or she may have dropped down to proficient,” she said. “You have to understand that we’re now being assessed and going up to the national standards. It will be a jolt.”
Hofmeister said “raw data” from the student tests held last spring will be released to the school districts this week. After a review period for districts to request any needed corrections, the data will be shared with parents and the public later this fall – most likely in mid-November.
The expected decrease doesn’t mean students are less skilled or schools or teachers are less effective, department officials emphasized. Rather, it will reflect how Oklahoma’s scores have been recalibrated to align with national data and assessments.
After Oklahoma abandoned Common Core standards in use by 42 other states, the state had to adopt new academic standards. Those new standards and new tests aligned with them were implemented in 2016-17.
Oklahoma educators who helped write the standards and set new proficiently levels or “cut scores” intentionally made them much more rigorous, according to officials.
As an example, in 2015 in both fourth-grade reading and math, around 70 percent of Oklahoma students were defined as “proficient.” However, when using proficiency standards from the National Assessment of Educational Progress adopted by the state this year, less than 40 percent of Oklahoma fourth-graders would have been considered proficient in reading and math.
Likewise, in eighth-grade reading assessment, the state’s 2015 proficiency rate was 75 percent. Under the new academic standards, it would have been 29 percent.
The new standards are designed to help close the “readiness gap” in preparing students for post-high school education and eventual careers, said Hofmeister.
“This is just a call for transparency, and Oklahomans are up for this challenge,” she said.
A special session is currently taking place in the Oklahoma State Legislature regarding public education funding and the need for teacher raises.
“We can’t have the conversation without putting into context that we have a teacher shortage and that our funding has had instability in the past,” said Hofmeister.
While the number of state-required tests is decreasing, the exams are getting tougher in order to meet new college- and career-readiness goals.
“The message is that we need to make sure our kids are prepared post-secondary to continue learning,” said Hofmeister. “They need to have that transition that’s part of life-long learning. These are big changes and won’t happen overnight.”
Beginning this year, high school students will be required to take a college- or career-ready exam — either the ACT or SAT — instead of the seven exams that were required up until last year.
Thirty-nine percent of all first-year college students in the state wind up having to take remedial (or catch-up) courses, for which they pay tuition but receive no college credit. Oklahoma families spend about $22 million in annual out-of-pocket costs for college remediation each year.
Moreover, remediation is often an indicator of potential struggles in higher education. In Oklahoma’s two-year colleges, only 9.2 percent of first-year students who enroll in remedial courses go on to graduate from that institution within three years.
In Oklahoma’s four-year colleges, only 30.6 percent of freshmen who enroll in remedial courses finish their degrees within six years, according to education department data.
Emily Droege is the education reporter for the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @EmilyDroegeEE.