Depends on What Your Definition of “State Mandated” Is
A reader emailed me an exchange between a technology group and Kurt Bernhart – the Executive Director of Research & Development in the Office of Accountability and Asessments – with the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Basically, they wanted to know whether or not the 95% and 90% testing rules* would apply to field testing item tryouts. Here is what he told them:
Regarding item tryouts and the 95% rule, here’s basically the answer. (Sorry for the legal speak, but it is required.)
According to Title 70, Sections 1210.508 and 1210.523 of the Oklahoma Statutes, the State Board of Education is required to conduct criterion referenced tests in grades three through eight, and conduct end-of-instruction exams in grades nine through twelve. Part of this requirement is that the State Board of Education must conduct field testing [item tryouts] to ensure that all criterion-referenced test items are validated and determined to be appropriate for assessing Oklahoma students. In addition to the statutory requirement, the State Board of Education’s administrative rule 210:10-13-2 states that “All public school districts in the state shall administer the state mandated academic achievement tests of the OSTP to all students enrolled in the designated grades.”
Also, not all districts were chosen in the field test sampling plan; however, those that were are required by the statutes and rules mentioned above to administer those assessments. Those districts who do not comply with the statutes and rules could face penalties from the State Board of Education.
Let me begin by saying that I’m not a lawyer, although I have a solid grasp on school law. Many people with whom I’ve talked feel the law he cites is limited in its scope. The term state mandated academic achievement tests, in my view, refers to those we legally have to give, not to the field tests item tryouts. At the end of the testing window, when we have administered all of those tests, we will have met that requirement. The statute and administrative rule are both silent on the issue of whether or not schools must participate in assessments given after schools have administered all of the subject-area tests.
Since we will not receive scores for these exams, I also have a hard time calling them academic achievement tests. Schools will receive no feedback about the extent to which their students achieved anything. They are tests over the standards that will be in effect next year. While most school districts have been working since 2010 or 2011 transitioning instruction from PASS to the Common Core, in most cases, that process is still not complete. Thus the field test item tryouts assess skills that have yet to be integrated into the curriculum. We won’t even know which items were successful in their tryouts and invited to join the squad!
We’ve seen hollow threats from the SDE about “penalties from the State Board of Education” before. The end result was Superintendent Barresi naming districts who did not participate in the Stress Tests in an email newsletter. Are they going to penalize parents who throw down their number two pencils and say, “I’ve had it!”? Will they be called out by name too?
It’s hard-core bluster aimed at the fact that the SDE has lost control of the people from whom it expects sheep-like obedience. We’ve also seen the SDE run away from Jenks and Owasso on this issue while forcing all the other districts to participate. Eventually (June 24th), they’re going to learn that standing in the door with their arms crossed doesn’t intimidate the rest of us either. This administration will say anything to scare school districts into compliance with nothing more than the equivalent of an outstretched finger pointed into our backs.
*Under Oklahoma’s No Child Left Behind waiver agreement with the feds, schools failing to test at least 95% of students enrolled in an assessed subject/grade will lose a letter grade on their A-F Report Cards. Schools failing to test at least 90% will receive an F.