At a glance, it will be obvious that spring 2017 test results are dramatically different than they have been in the past – so different, in fact, that they cannot and must not be compared to prior years. This year marks a total reset and establishes a new baseline year. By rethinking what student test performance looks like and means, Oklahoma has taken a bold step to ensure our students have a competitive edge and are better prepared for life after high school.
After the state wrote and implemented new, more comprehensive academic standards in science in 2014 and in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics in 2016, new assessments were required. These new standards prompted more complex assessments under the Oklahoma School Testing Program (OSTP), which in turn required new cut scores to designate performance levels.
Although we are required by law to use the descriptors Advanced, Proficient, Limited Knowledge and Unsatisfactory, the last two performance levels do not accurately describe what these scores mean. Instead, we recommend stakeholders begin using BASIC for Limited Knowledge and BELOW BASIC for Unsatisfactory, which correspond to those used by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Basic is an indication that students have basic skills but are still working toward being on track for college and career readiness, i.e. Proficient. Their skills are still developing. Students in the Below Basic category have beginning or emerging skills. These descriptors acknowledge students’ progress and indicate that they are able to achieve growth.
The results for this initial year may come as a shock for many families and students, even for some educators. It is important not to be discouraged. Our children, teachers and schools have not changed, but our expectations have evolved to ensure our students are ready for their future and next steps after high school. Proficient now indicates that an Oklahoma student is prepared or on track to be prepared for college or the workplace. Our state’s test results finally have national comparability which aligns with the ACT/SAT as well as NAEP. – OSDE Office of Assessments
“As school districts begin to study their scores, every stakeholder must understand that our new assessment system is not only a total reset but a testament to the commitment and hard work of our teachers. From the development of stronger academic standards to the setting of challenging, nationally aligned cut scores, the entire process has been driven by educators who understand the importance of providing opportunity for all children. I am confident that under this new system, if we will stay out of the way and let teachers do their jobs, scores will climb and our students will graduate better prepared for a changing workforce and the demands of college.
“This kind of difficult, from-the-ground-up change requires adequate resources for education, the most important of which, research shows, is a highly effective teacher in every classroom. Funding shortfalls and a worsening teacher shortage are roadblocks to that end, but I don’t lose hope. The time is now for Oklahoma to invest in our schools. Nothing less than the future of our state depends on it.
“To our teachers, I say this: Do not lose heart. This year will be a challenge, but you are already strengthened from previous challenges. Your professionalism and dedication have led us collectively to insist on high expectations for every child, every day. Your work is more important than it has ever been, and I have never been more proud of you.”
For statewide results of the spring 2017 Oklahoma School Testing Program for each grade level and subject, click here.