Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Does SB707 UNDO HB3399 - The Repeal of Common Core State Standards in Oklahoma?

As readers know, ROPE is not in favor of mandating the use of ACT in law

We believe that choosing an exit exam to be mandated for all Oklahoma students is getting the CART BEFORE THE HORSE. Oklahoma has not even created our own standards as specified in HB3399, last year's Common Core Repeal Bill, why would Oklahoma legislators and the State Board of Education decide on an exit exam before Oklahoma's new standards have even been written? 

If HB3399 is to be changed (SB707), how can that be done without deliberately SUBVERTING THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE? Many legislators ran for office in 2014 on their vote to repeal Common Core. Once these legislators are in office, can they simply renege on that vote in order to adopt a specific out-of-state test because it's popular? 

It appears that two very important questions need to be answered before Oklahoma law makers move forward with mandating ANY end of year test. 
  1. WHY IS IT NECESSARY TO REMOVE LANGUAGE FROM LAST YEAR'S Common Core repeal bill HB3399Oklahoman's voted to repeal Common Core, why should anyone seek to change the language in that bill and unhook tests from standards? Wasn't the idea to have Oklahoma tests that matched Oklahoma standards? That's what the public said they wanted.
  2. Is it good public policy to NAME A SPECIFIC VENDOR in LAW when multiple vendors can meet each Oklahoma's need for an end of year exam? Isn't this why we have a competitive bidding process? If not, then I'm going out to start my own construction company and lobby to have it placed IN LAW as the only construction company that can be used on any job in Oklahoma. Doesn't make much sense when you look at it that way, does it?
ACT is a test with a long history and all students who want to take the ACT should take the ACT. It should not be MANDATED as an end of year exam. Why? Let's do some pro/con, tit/tat, to figure out exactly why, but first, let's get a handle on some basics.

What does HB3399 say about testing in Oklahoma?

Section 11-103.6a B1: The subject matter standards and corresponding student assessments for English Language Arts and Mathematics shall be solely approved and controlled by the state through the State Board of Education.

Section 11-103.6a C1: On or before the 2017-18 school year, the State Board of Education, in consultation with the State Regents for Higher Education, the State Board of Career and Technology Education and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, shall direct the process of the development of annual high-quality statewide student assessments for English Language Arts and Mathematics as provided for in Section 1210.508 of this title that align with the college- and career-ready subject matter standards developed pursuant to subsection B of this section.

Section 11-103.6a D1: The State Board of Education shall not enter into any agreement, memorandum of understanding or contract with any federal agency or private entity which in any way cedes or limits state discretion or control over the process of development, adoption or revision of subject matter standards and corresponding student assessments in the public school system, including, but not limited to, agreements, memoranda of understanding and contracts in exchange for funding for public schools and programs.

Section 11-103.6a D3E: The content of all subject matter standards and corresponding student assessments shall be solely approved and controlled by the state through the State Board of Education. The State Board of Education shall maintain independence of all subject matter standards referenced in Section 11-103.6 of this title and corresponding statewide student assessments and shall not relinquish authority over Oklahoma subject matter standards and corresponding statewide student assessments. 

Section 1210.508 A. 1. The State Board of Education shall develop and administer a series of criterion-referenced tests designed to indicate whether the state academic content subject matter standards, as defined by the State Board of Education in the Priority Academic Student Skills Curriculum, which Oklahoma public school students are expected to have attained have been achieved. (**See below for definitions of Criterion Referenced and Norm Referenced tests)

Does this language say that no other tests can be used in Oklahoma other than the ones created to match our standards? NO. It simply says that STATEWIDE exams must correspond to our state standards. That is not the ACT or the AP, or any other national exam - all of which are VOLUNTARY.

What does Mary Fallin's Executive Order 2013-40 say about testing in Oklahoma?

2.  The State of Oklahoma will be exclusively responsible for deciding the assessment
methodology to be used to measure student performance.

6.  All assessments will be developed with input by Oklahomans. Further, final adoption of any assessment is the sole responsibility and obligation of Oklahomans, with input from Oklahoma educators, higher education and career technology centers, parents, and the Oklahoma business community.


When comparing ACT to the above, ACT simply doesn't fit current Oklahoma law as use for a mandated exit test. 

What else about the ACT?
  • ACT is a NRT, not a CRT and it can't become one, but other tests on the market can.
  • ACT is not as good a predictor of college readiness as high school grades. For some time it has been known that high school grades are a better predictor of college success than the ACT or SAT (1), but a RECENT study (2) echoes this knowledge.
  • ACT will NOT raise our ACT scores if we give it to 100% of our kids. In fact, the Southern Regional Education Board has found that once North Carolina began giving ALL their high school juniors the ACT, they went from an average score of 21.9 to 18.7. (3)  How this doesn't make simple common sense I'm unclear. If you have kids forced to take a test they don't want to take, or are not ready to take, these scores are going to DROP the average of those who would have taken it of their own volition.
  • ACT is NOT a necessity for college admission. As many as 800 institutions - including University of Central Oklahoma - (4) that traditionally relied on the ACT/SAT for admission, are now utilizing student transcripts to make these decisions. (5) In fact, according to a previous study by FairTest, colleges that do not base admissions on ACT/SAT NRT's (6) "...are widely pleased with the results. Regardless of size or selectivity, these institutions have seen substantial benefits, including increased student diversity, more and better-prepared applicants, and positive reactions from alumni/ae, students, guidance counselors and the public.
  • ACT has never been validated for use as a high school exit exam. Bob Schaeffer of Fair Test says, "The use of the ACT as an exit exam would be bad policy. The test has never been validated for that purpose. (7) Such use violates the Standards for Educational and Psychological Measurement, the testing profession's own guidelines". 
  • ACT may NOT be able to provide testing results in a timely fashion. Online tests for ACT are provided by Pearson (8). FairTest has an impressive log of Pearson testing failures (9) and Diane Ravich has published information on Pearson failures in Oklahoma specifically (10). How can anyone say that ACT's results are expected in a timely fashion when past experience does not at all support this notion?
  • ACT is not a fair test for minorities or the poor. ACT regularly underestimates the abilities of females (11) and the ACT also does a poor job of predicting college performance for students of color. A common sense approach would assume that advantaged families will continue to pay for ACT test prep even when state mandated, while less advantaged students who don't have that opportunity and/or simply don't care about the test may not even try to answer correctly.
  • ACT is aligned to Common Core. ACT Aspire is fully aligned to the Common Core (12) and The ACT is aligned in part simply because ACT helped to create the Common Core framework. (13) Why would we want a test that does not reflect STATE standards, but those that the public voted to be rid of just one year ago? 
  • ACT as an exit exam will mean nothing if no cut score is provided. What cut score will be used? Why? Using ACT's results from 2013 (14) Dr. John Thompson argues (15) that 28% of students would fail and ACT with a cutoff score of 16. If there is no cutoff score for an ACT exit exam than anyone who took the test would pass. How is there any accountability in that process? Since Oklahoma's standards would not be measured with an ACT, utilizing ACT with no cut score would have no meaning.
  • ACT has been touted as be cheaper than EOI's, but where is the bidding process that would provide transparency and finality to this assertion? How can one vendor be placed in law as responsible for something as important as determining college readiness without even following the competitive bidding process?
  • ACT has been denounced as an exit exam by 2 of the experts asked for testimony regarding the Oklahoma Standards Re-Write process. (16)
I'm sure there are other reasons to look at ACT for appropriateness as an end of year exam, but the point of the matter is that there are enough facts listed here that I would hope legislators would want to take another look at this option. We're not saying we don't want to use the ACT, we're simply saying:
  1. HB3399 should be left as is and no language repealed as this was the bill voters wanted
  2. Oklahoma shouldn't mandate in law a specific test/vendor to be given statewide 
  3. A statewide test should not be chosen BEFORE the standards re-write process is complete
  4. The competitive bidding process should not be circumvented for any reason because it protects taxpayer funds
Oklahoma has been here before in 2010, when a large omnibus bill (SB2033) - including Common Core - was passed by the legislature in order to be competitive for federal Race To The Top funds. Since that time, Oklahoma has found that A-F, TLE AND Common Core, were not the bill of goods sold. Let's not make another Common Core mistake. Let's not rush into ANY legislation. Let's take our time and study what is the best course of action - our standards aren't to be completed until 2015-2016 - WE HAVE TIME!

(5) ibid

**What is the difference between a NORM-referenced and a CRITERION-referenced test. 

A NORM-referenced test (NRT) is a test of general knowledge usually based on some kind of national standard (not locally determined standards), that provides a snapshot of how well one student performs on certain items when COMPARED to another. Results are reported as a percentage. Example: John Smith's Algebra scores shows him to be in the 75th percentile - meaning John Smith performed as well or better than 75% of the students taking that specific test. NORM-referenced tests cannot measure the learning achievement or progress of an entire group of students, just the relative performance of individuals within a group. Test questions are carefully worded to accentuate the differences among students, not determine if students have acquired specific knowledge. (ACT/SAT)

A CRITERION-referenced test (CRT) measure student performance in relation to a common set of fixed criteria - or standards. The test measures individual performance on the exam and provides a score specific to the test taker and not in relation to the rest of the group taking the exam. This test is usually given for the purpose of determining whether schools are successfully teaching students what they are expected to know and do (based on local standards). This test can determine if students have learned the standards they were taught