Sunday, March 1, 2015

"Common" Sense Questions About EOI's and ACT

One day while visiting with a legislator, I heard words so true I'll ultimately carry them with me for the rest of my life. As I sat talking to this man about a particular bill, he uttered the sentence,
"Jenni, we make laws up here (the Capitol), that's what we do." 
It was then I understood with crystal clarity why I felt as though I was constantly fighting one bill or another every year. It was then I discovered why I sit uneasily on the edge of my chair from February through May. Legislators see it as their job to make laws. 

Okay, we do call them law makers, but really, is that their job? Is their job to MAKE LAWS or to PROTECT MY LIBERTY? According to the Constitution, my liberty is of the utmost importance, yet therein lies the conundrum. If we elect people to represent us in our government, call them law makers and then send them to the Capitol with a certain number of bills they may write every year, how will individual liberty NOT be subverted in at least some way? It's a shoe-in it will. (So far this year we've had a bill to fine me for wearing a hoodie and a bill to fine me for texting while driving though we already have a law on the books for distracted driving - I rest my case.)

Let's look at the latest infringement of liberty in the education category - SB707 - a bill in which key segments of last year's Common Core repeal bill will be, well, repealed.

I've written about this bill a number of different times and so have many many others. Good grief, at this point, just Google the bill number and Oklahoma together in a sentence and you'll get plenty to read.

This morning, I saw the OKEducationTruths blog on why Oklahoma should use ACT instead of our current End of Instruction (EOI) exams. In the blog was this picture the author had taken at a High Stakes Testing Summit in which people from all over the state had come to discuss the issue.

It's a bit hard to read all of the concerns written on this page, but here are a few:
  1. Technology
  2. If you don't test it it doesn't count
  3. Misuse of Results
  4. Inaccurately Defines Success
  5. Results Don't Return Soon Enough
  6. Psychological Impact to Students and IEP students
Let me address just these few - comments are number-matched:
  1. Technology - though Oklahoma schools have had to use E-Rate grants to upgrade their internet broadband in order to be ready to provide online exams, broadband isn't the only issue involved with online testing. Pearson will be supplying the technology platform for ACT. Pearson, unfortunately, has a terrible record of testing problems - including here in Oklahoma.
  2. The ACT is aligned to the Common Core. Implementing ACT BEFORE Oklahoma creates its own standards (as dictated by the Common Core repeal bill HB3399), will usher in a real possibility where Common Core comes back into the state as teachers begin to teach to the mandated, Common Core aligned ACT.
  3. Results of the ACT is college readiness. Will mandating this test be taken by every Oklahoma high school junior tell us anything other than that they are 'college ready'? 
  4. The ACT is a test that doesn't tell what a student has learned directly in the classroom, it uses its own standards to generate a general test for college 'readiness'. If we are to use ACT as a high school exit exam when not ALL students are prepared to attend college, though the test has never been validated for that use, what results are we expecting? High school transcripts have long been shown to be a better predictor of college success than the ACT.
  5. Online testing in Oklahoma has proved technologically challenging and has produced late or no test results. Paper and pencil tests have not experienced these issues.
  6. ACT does have a provision for testing IEP students. Just recently, we were notified of a parent in another state who also mandates the use of ACT as a junior, whose child had their ENTIRE IEP file uploaded to ACT in order to receive modifications. If that isn't a breach of privacy, I'm not sure there's a definition. That's quite an impact for not only that student, but the family as well. Then, of course, there's the stress that comes with taking a test that was once voluntary, but now has become a high stakes test....
In closing, the OkEducationTruths blog spawned a whole list of questions I would love to see answered. In fact, it's my hope Common Sense overrides the necessity to 'make law' up at the state Capitol on a regular basis, but certainly on this issue. Maybe it would help - instead of acting - to answer these questions first...GO!
  1. Why should we circumvent the bidding process and put a specific test in law?
  2. Why should we name any specific test in law, tying ourselves down to a situation that might possibly have to be rectified with MORE legislation (laws)? Did Common Core teach no one a lesson here about putting specific programs in law before we knew what they would do?
  3. Simply moving from 7 EOISs(only 4 are tested, but 7 have to be prepared) to 1 EOI will save great heaps of money, so to say using ACT is THE financial panacea for testing costs is simply a red herring, isn't it?
  4. Why is using the ACT the best way to go? Isn't grade point average the better predictor of college success?  If so, can't ANY comprehensive test be used as an EOI?
  5. Why commit to using an online test administered by Pearson when Oklahoma has a terrible track record with that business?
  6. How can administrators who ordinarily rage against state mandates be so willing to get behind the creation of yet another mandate?