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The Daily Ardmoreite
  • Oklahoma schools reconsidering tests

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  • Time and money have led State Superintendent Janet Barresi to look for other assessment options for Oklahoma schools.
    Oklahoma schools are in the process of adopting the Common Core Standards, which cover math and literacy and are being adopted in 45 states.
    The state will still be adopting the standards, but not the tests that were being developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. PARCC is a group of about 20 states that were working together to develop tests to accompany the new Common Core Standards.
    The Common Core and the PARCC assessments are to be implemented fully by the 2014-15 school year. They replace the Priority Academic Student Skills and the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Tests.
    Schools will still be implementing the Common Core Standards on the same schedule, but the State Department of Education will be finding its own vendor and developing its own exams.
    "We're still implementing the Common Core, but we're coming up with our own assessments to measure," said Tricia Pemberton, State Department of Education spokesman. "No work on the transition to the standards will be wasted."
    Barresi will be discussing with the governor whether to stay with PARCC for information on implementing the standards.
    Some state groups have expressed concerns at the change in assessments.
    "Without a test that allows for comparability with other states, a central goal of the Common Core — measuring academic performance against a common set of rigorous expectations for college and career readiness will not be met," said Brian Hunt, executive director of Stand for Children Oklahoma. "While it looks as if PARCC may not be the answer in Oklahoma, we must demand a quality assessment that truly gives parents peace of mind that their children are learning what they need to be ready for college and beyond."
    Local educators are anxious to find out more about this change in plans. A statewide conference next week will, they hope, bring answers.
    "It will be interesting to hear the reasoning," said Missy Storm, Ardmore City Schools assistant superintendent. "I'm sure there are many anxious counselors and principals out there. There was probably a change necessary because of the technology, but now we don't know what direction we headed."
    Pemberton listed three main reasons for the decision to opt out of PARCC assessments:
    n Time on Task — Oklahoma students currently spend an average of two hours per exam, which is lower than most other states. The new PARCC assessments are projected to be about eight hours per exam.
    "Her (Barresi's) desire is for our kids to test at the national average, but they have to get used to it before making such a big leap," Pemberton said.
    Page 2 of 2 - The request for the new test for Oklahoma are expected to be about five hours.
    "It's an increase, but not as big an increase. It will be just as rigorous but with fewer questions," Pemberton said.
    n Cost — According to Pemberton, the state will save $2 million per year by developing its own test.
    Savings include not having to pay for additional retake exams, which PARCC will do.
    n Technology — Having tested bandwidth speeds in April, the State Department of Education said 85 percent of schools do not meet the requirements for all online assessments like PARCC.
    Currently, sixth through 12th grades complete online testing, while third through fifth grades take a paper and pencil exam.
    PARCC includes online exams for third through 12th grade, which Pemberton said would have taxed schools' current infrastructure.
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