Home > Uncategorized > On Double Standards and Opt Outs

On Double Standards and Opt Outs

January 17, 2014

As I mentioned Wednesday, Superintendent Barresi has made a very big deal about the fact that she has told the federal government that our kids have had too much testing. Rob Miller then pointed out last night that it’s such a big deal, she’s taken to bragging about it on her campaign website. It’s not just that, however. She also blames schools for the excessive testing:

Even though the state only requires one round of testing each year in the spring, many districts choose to add additional tests and benchmark exams throughout the school year, and parents have expressed concern about the number of tests their kids are required to take.

Technically that’s true. Benchmark testing is a strategy utilized by many school districts in order to plan remediation strategies throughout the school year. It’s even a component of the Other Academic Measures many schools have chosen as part of the new teacher evaluation system.

Benchmark testing is so prevalent, in fact, that it was the centerpiece of the settlement with CTB/McGraw-Hill last summer after they completely botched our state testing in the spring. To refresh your memory, here is a breakdown of what the state received for its troubles:

  • A cash settlement ($367,205)
  • Professional development for teachers to help them become more acquainted with the type of items that can be expected on new English language arts and math assessments and how to adjust instruction so students will be successful on these tests. ($13,000)
  • Formative tests for teachers that can be given on a voluntary basis twice a year to measure student learning and drive instruction for the benefit of increased student achievement in the second grade. ($678,400)
  • Formative tests for teachers that can be given on a voluntary basis twice a year to measure student learning and drive instruction for the benefit of increased student achievement for grades 3 through 11. ($6,600)
  • The commissioning of an independent study to evaluate the impact of the disruptions on student test scores. HUMRRO, Inc. has expertise in the area of analyzing testing disruptions. They will provide an independent opinion that is expected to be delivered in late August. ($48,000)
  • Prior to testing, CTB will conduct a technology readiness assessment of each Oklahoma School District to: ($125,000)
    • Capture specifications regarding bandwidth, number of workstations, server
      configuration, etc. at each school site
    • Identify a technology contact at each school district
    • Perform online stress tests at every site
    • Conduct training and deploy implementation services at all sites
    • Establish a technology forum to deliver regular communications to districts

In part, Barresi is blaming schools for the over-testing of students. Meanwhile, the SDE negotiated a package with the vendor that spends more than half of the settlement on benchmark testing – testing that a lot of districts aren’t even using.

You’ll also remember that last year, the SDE “investigated” brother-in-blogging Rob for the high number of opt-outs at his school. When schools decide not to play along with Barresi’s whims, it’s downright criminal! Then Diane Ravitch got involved, and we never heard anything else about the story.

Now we hear that some districts plan to skip the readiness assessment. As you can see above, it’s a miniscule chunk of the CTB settlement. I question why this is our burden at all. We’re paying the testing companies tens of millions of dollars. It shouldn’t require further disruptions of learning to ensure that their crap works.

The “stress test” story was somehow overlooked by the Oklahoman, but the Tulsa World covered it pretty well:

The notice states that the testing vendors will report the results to the Department of Education and that if districts don’t participate in the mandatory tests, the state Board of Education has the authority to withhold state funds and official recognition, including accreditation, plus “to revoke the certificates of persons failing or refusing to make such reports.”

Sapulpa Superintendent Kevin Burr is president of the Tulsa County Superintendents Association and said he received phone calls from several of his counterparts who shared his reaction.

“It’s unbelievable that we have to submit our district to this expectation,” Burr said. “All computers that will be used in testing? We either have to take students away from instructional time or beg parents to volunteer to sit down and help us with the 400 to 500 computers that we will have to test.”

Education Department spokesman Phil Bacharach said the readiness tests are designed to prevent a repeat of last year, when malfunctions with online testing caused thousands of students’ tests to be invalidated in Oklahoma, which was one of several states reportedly affected by server crashes by online testing giant CTB McGraw-Hill.

“We want to do everything we can to avoid what happened last spring,” Bacharach said. “An inconvenience now would be better than an inconvenience down the road.”

Burr said he believes the burden for readiness tests should lie primarily with testing companies and that their tests could be accomplished by using a much smaller, representative sample of school computers.

“To use a threat to ensure our participation seems to be the typical tactic of this state Department of Education,” he said. “This isn’t the first threat we have received, and we will likely comply because of it. But why are we being asked to do the work of the vendors that are being paid in the neighborhood of $50 million?”

Tricia Pemberton, an education department spokeswoman, said the stern language was used to communicate “the gravity of the situation.”

“Certainly, we never anticipate it getting to the level of us holding somebody’s certification,” Pemberton said. “But we have heard from some districts that they don’t intend to participate. If not all districts get on at that time, it’s not a valid test of the capacity of the system.”

Bullies don’t like it when the little guy pushes back. This is why we love movies like Braveheart and A Christmas Story. That’s what Barresi has been up against lately. School districts are sick of the disrespect she has shown teachers and administrators from day one of her administration. They are sick of the double standards. She pushed Jenks, and they pushed back.

Her mouth says this:


Her actions tell a different story.

  1. Brooke
    January 17, 2014 at 7:58 am

    “It shouldn’t require further disruptions of learning to ensure that their crap works.”



  2. January 18, 2014 at 11:01 am

    Have the fulfilled any of the last bullet point (Prior to testing, CTB…) other than the stress test coming up (which will actually be a massive amount of work on the part of schools, not CTB)?


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