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Planning for Failure

January 7, 2014

When readers send me things, I sometimes get a view into the inner-workings of some of our state’s policy measures. In this case, it’s a perspective many of us would have missed.

As all Oklahoma parents, educators, and concerned citizens should know by now, this is the first year schools will be forced to retain third grade students who score unsatisfactory on the state reading test. Since those tests are less than four months away, the Oklahoma State Department of Education has begun to help us plan. This week, schools affected by this law should be receiving a form asking them to predict how many students will score unsatisfactory on the third grade reading test.

The form also asks principals to predict how many students will qualify for each of the six Good Cause Exemptions. For the unfamiliar, they are (and please note that I cannot be held responsible for the lack of parallel structure in the form):

1. Be identified as Limited-English Proficient (LEP)/English Language Learner (ELL) on a   screening tool approved by the Oklahoma State Department of Education Office of Bilingual/ Migrant Education and have a Language Instruction Educational Plan (LIEP) in place prior to the administration of the third grade criterion referenced test; and the student must have had less than two (2) years of instruction in an English Language Learner (ELL) program.

2. Students with disabilities who are assessed with alternate achievement standards (AA-AAS)    under the Oklahoma School Testing Program (OSTP) with the Oklahoma Alternative Assessment Program (OAAP) qualify for the good cause exemption.

3. *Scoring at or above 45th percentile on one of four Oklahoma State Board of Education approved alternative standardized reading assessments:

  • Stanford Achievement Test, Tenth Edition (SAT 10)
  • Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS) Complete Battery, Form A, C, or E, Level 9, Reading Comprehension
  • Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS) Core Battery, Form A, C, or E, Level 9, Reading Comprehension
  • Terra Nova, Third Edition Complete Battery, Level 13, Reading

4. *To promote a student based on evidence from the Student Portfolio, the Student Portfolio shall include evidence demonstrating the student’s mastery of the Oklahoma state standards in reading equal to grade level performance on the reading portion of third grade OCCT.

5. Students with disabilities who participate in the statewide criterion-referenced test and have an IEP may qualify for a good cause exemption. To qualify for this exemption, the student must meet the following criteria: (A) The student must have been previously retained in kindergarten, first grade, second grade, or third grade; (B) The student’s IEP must: (i) Identify Reading as an area of education need for the student or identify some type of special education service in the area of Reading; and; (ii) Reflect that the student has received intensive remediation for more than two years. Intensive remediation may include any type of program offering intensive reading instruction that is identified as appropriate by the IEP team.

6. Students who demonstrate a reading deficiency and have been previously retained may qualify for a good cause exemption. To qualify for this exemption, the student must meet the following criteria: (A) The student must have been previously retained in kindergarten, first grade, second grade, or third grade for a total of two years, and; (B) The student must have received intensive reading instruction for two or more years.

* Good Cause Exemption 3 and 4 are provisions designed for students who read on a proficient level.  

Whether you knew it or not, this should be a solid reminder that the safeguards designed for ELL and Special Education students are quite flimsy. It should also be a wakeup call for anyone who has forgotten the added burdens that school reformers are placing on students and their teachers. The SDE is asking schools to predict – by mid-February – how many students will score Unsatisfactory on the test in spite of being proficient readers. That’s what the asterisked exceptions do.

In addition to having principals complete this worksheet, the SDE will send their Regional Accreditation Officers around in the next few weeks to have superintendents sign their Reading Sufficiency Act Awareness Statement. This form provides assurances – after the fact – that schools have provided reading instruction as proscribed by law, administered frequent benchmark assessments to students, and adopted policies to address issues such as mid-year promotion. It also serves as a de facto evaluation of the REAC3H Coaches who are serving the districts.

None of this will make students better readers or teachers better at reading instruction. It’s another series of checklists and forms. This process, by design, provides cover for the SDE, for schools, and ultimately for teachers. If you believe that more fear and bureaucracy are the necessary components to improving reading instruction, Oklahoma is on its way to 100% literacy by 2020.

  1. blondehendrixfreak
    January 7, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    One of my questions is, what is the SDE providing teachers with for their Kindergarten, first, second and third grade classes to make sure they have the necessary tools to meet this law requirement? What good is it without proper implementation and resources?


  2. Oklahoma Teacher
    January 7, 2014 at 10:02 pm

    I remember when we were being prepped for this a few years ago. We were told it would hold parents more accountable. Then a while later we were told to start documenting every time we worked with students in reading groups. We hold all this for 7 years because of the lawsuit possibilities with this law. This is ridiculous, but I do it, because I know it could happen. I teach first grade.


    • taffy123$%
      January 8, 2014 at 7:50 am

      The amount of documentation and records that the teachers are directed to keep and maintain, not the school, for the same reasons is simply incredible. We now have a storage area for this sole purpose. My wife teachers 4th grade.


      • taffy123$%
        January 8, 2014 at 7:52 am

        teachers = teaches; no edit function


  3. Jana
    January 16, 2014 at 10:49 am

    From a parents perspective: My 3rd grade child entered OK school system this year (moved from KS). She is a very good student by all accounts — high A’s in all graded subjects, lexile score (at start of the year was 790), reads easily 1-2 grade levels ahead of expectations. Then the assessment on phonics (reading pseudowords) has been problematic. Apparently, the child has too much intelligence to read a page of fake words. She is being threatened with retention in 3rd grade and for no good reason. I, as the parent, am not allowed to see the assessment she was given or the list of words, real and fake, that she is supposed to be able to read. Valuable educational time is being wasted trying to acquire this skill and I have not been given the information to help her achieve. I am at my wits end and see no real alternative other than to pull her out and home school for the nest 2 years. She does not have a deficit in reading and knows how to use a dictionary to look up any words she encounters that give her trouble. Ridiculous.


  4. Peggy Excell
    May 7, 2014 at 10:27 pm

    My daughter is one of the students who may be held back this year because she has not been held back previously. She meets all the other criteria except having previously been held back. What is sad is she has made great improvement this year bit as she said to me it doesn’t matter how hard she tries she is still going to be punished because she can’t read as well as other kids. This saddened me greatly that she is being discriminated against because of her disability and she is being made to take a test she will have a hard time to pass. To be non discriminatory there should have been a modified test provided as per her IEP. This is the same test only in larger print and the questions asked by paragraph not two pages of reading then many questions. Many of the children in our special education classes can read but they don’t retain or comprehend what they have read well so the modified test helps with that deficiency. If the polititions who put this controversial and discriminatory policy in place had done there job there would have been a modified test provided there is a reason these children are on IEPs. They also do not address the fact that our teachers can only have so many children on ieps and they are pressured to reduce those numbers every year.
    Thank you
    Peggy Excell


  1. February 10, 2014 at 12:17 am
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