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Ned Ryerson?

February 1, 2014

What a way to start Groundhog Day weekend!

Yesterday, the Oklahoma State Department of Education sent two communications to superintendents, principals, and testing coordinators. Friend-of-the-blog Rob Miller tackled the first one, which came at 3:06 p.m. I’ll re-post Rob’s spot-on thoughts on the message:

1. Is it really necessary to advise school districts anymore that results will not be received until July? I cannot remember the last time we had results before August. Why can’t we do standard setting in late May or early June so districts could get results by June 15th? The law specifically states that the SDE is to provide final results within two weeks—it has never happened!

2. I expect the standard setting process for US History to go much like the one for Biology last summer. A committee of educators and psychometricians will come together and make a recommendation. Then the SDE will ignore this recommendation and set the cut score wherever they want to reflect the increased “rigor” of the new standards.

3. We already know that last year’s 7th grade geography test did not go well. Schools and teachers received no actionable data from these assessments. The same will happen once again this year. According to the SDE, they will be determining the sampling of students who will participate in this year’s field test in February. I sure hope they pick Jenks Middle School again. Our parents love field tests.

4. This sentence makes me ill: “The OCCT ACE U.S. History test will fully assess the depth and rigor of the new Oklahoma Academic Standards.” What does this even mean?

5. OMAAPs are gone. We know this means that fewer students on IEPs will be successful on state testing. This will definitely impact school A-F grades next fall since these students’ scores will count both in the “whole school performance” and both sets of growth calculations. It could be ugly.

6. For both the CTB and Measured Progress “item tryouts,” the SDE is extending the testing window until May 23 and May 21, respectively. They specifically say that the tryouts should occur after all of the operational tests.

Rob, I hope they pick Jenks too. As for the field tests item tryouts, we know how well that’s going to go. The jig is up already. Students, teachers, and parents know the points don’t matter. Testing fatigue will have set in by then, and all involved stakeholders will have an eye towards summer vacation. The only reason any of this matters, of course, is because politicians want students to give them talking points.

At 4:32, the SDE sent out this second message:

SDE: 2014 A–F Report Card Technical Manual now available

OK State Dept of Ed sent this bulletin at 01/31/2014 04:32 PM CST

Dear Superintendents, Principals, and District Test Coordinators,

The 2014 A–F Report Card Technical Manual is now available on the State Department of Education’s website (http://ok.gov/sde/f-grading-system). The purpose of this manual is to describe in detail the specifics of how each component of the report card is calculated. Some of the significant changes from the 2013 Report Card Guide include, but are not limited to, the following:

A table of contents, introductory section, and glossary were added.

A description of eligibility requirements was added.

Fifth-Grade Social Studies and Eighth-Grade U.S. History are no longer pilot exams.

Beginning in 2013-2014, OMAAP exams are only available to second-time EOI testers who previously took an OMAAP. Therefore, OMAAP exams are no longer used in the A-F Report Card, and there is no longer a 2 percent OMAAP cap.

Rules surrounding virtual education providers are clarified.

The section on how middle school students who take EOIs are used in the Student Performance Component was revised.

How exams are paired for the Student Growth components has been clarified.

Calculation of the Bottom 25 Percent Growth sub-component has been clarified.

Additional details for bonus point calculations have been added.

Please note that the targeted audience for this manual are school and district administrators who wish to know exactly how the report card is generated and might wish to have the ability to replicate the report card themselves. An A – F Report Card guide that is targeted for educators, parents, and other stakeholders is currently in development and is expected to be released shortly. In the meantime, please feel free to direct any questions to the Office of Accountability and Assessment at (405) 521-3341.

Does anyone reading this feel like we’ve been here before? Like at any moment, the numbers will flip on the clock radio and we’ll be listening to Sonny & Cher?

As most educators would, I spent some time this Saturday morning perusing the new 35 page technical manual for Oklahoma’s easy to understand accountability system. Here are my thoughts on the major changes (not counting the revolutionary decision to include a Table of Contents).

  • Page 7 – A component or sub-component must have at least 10 unique students with valid test scores in order to calculate an index for that component. This means you have to have 10 of something for that group to count – third graders, Biology EOIs, ELL students taking math tests, etc. This number has gotten smaller over the years, and now represents a count with no statistical validity.
  • Page 8 – A Special Note about Virtual Education Providers – Suffice it to say that the SDE wants to clarify its position on grades for virtual charter schools to avoid further legal issues.
  • Page 10 – Students who take an EOI in Middle School Grades – Let’s say some of Rob’s middle school kids take the Algebra I EOI and do well. This section clarifies that in addition to the middle school getting credit for the scores, when the student matriculates to 9th grade, Jenks Freshman Academy will also receive credit for the scores. This is a boon for high schools, if I’m interpreting correctly. The document does not clarify, however, what will happen with middle schools that lose 7th or 8th grade math scores from students who will no longer double test. Maybe we should just count their EOIs twice. We count our lowest-performing students three times, after all.
  • Page 15 – Student Growth – This section clarifies which tests are used for student growth. Only the 3-8 reading and math tests, the Algebra I tests, and the English II tests will be used to calculate growth.  On one hand, this makes sense. You wouldn’t want to calculate growth between algebra and geometry tests. They are totally different standards. On the other hand, you’re really not calculating growth for the vast majority of high school. As such, all aspects of the student growth component for high schools completely lack meaning.
  • Page 20 – Bottom 25 Percent Student Growth – This is where the SDE decision to count groups of ten really comes into play. Many small schools lacked the number of students for this calculation last year. They will count now, and the results will be all over the place.
  • Page 25 – Bonus Points – The technical manual reminds schools that the bonus points are all or nothing. Think about that for a minute. If an elementary school has 94.00 attendance, it receives 10 bonus points – a whole letter grade.  If it slips to 93.99, it gets nothing. The negligible difference between the two schools would be the difference between an A and a B. Or between a C and a D perhaps.
  • Page 38 – Glossary – This is the only place the technical manual discusses the fact that Full Academic Year now begins October 1st. So 94 percent attendance is required or you lose a letter grade, but students can miss the first 6 to 8 weeks of school and still count as FAY. Freaking brilliant!

I find the last paragraph of the memo amusing. This information is for school officials, not parents. The SDE has a habit of underestimating their ability to grasp details like this.

This superficial accountability system is the cornerstone of the Barresi administration. This is their third attempt to get it right. At least they’re starting early this time.

  1. Fred Aresco
    February 2, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    The use of a group of 10 students was instituted when the State Board of Ed decided to not follow the recommendation of the Teachers and the Commission that evaluated this idea. they recommended staying with 15 for statistical validity. Of course valid results are not at all what the SDE is after. Also as shown by last year’s biology tests if this years history tests scores are too high they will raise the cut scores ex post facto and make it look like whatever they (the SDE) want. I think the March on the Capitol March 31st is a good idea but I think we need to show up with pitch forks, axes and flaming torches.


  2. Fred Aresco
    February 3, 2014 at 9:04 am

    On a side note the angry mob reference was just me being facetious….. although that is an impression I think the politicians need to get from us…. we are angry, frustrated and will no longer sit still for these shenanigans.


  1. February 8, 2014 at 10:38 am
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