Home > Uncategorized > Why I support replacing the EOIs with the ACT (Part II)

Why I support replacing the EOIs with the ACT (Part II)

March 2, 2015

Soon after I posted Part I, Claudia Swisher asked about high stakes and cut scores – especially for students who aren’t going to college. This is a critical issue to address, and probably the one that drove the stake through the heart of the Common Core last year.

In my perfect world, we would have no test tied to graduation. That being said, I live in this world. The Oklahoma Legislature is going to demand something to replace the EOIs as a graduation test. I don’t have the perfect solution to this issue, and I don’t feel it needs to be addressed at the legislative level. This is something for the State Board of Education and the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability to establish through administrative rule. We must have safety nets for students on IEPs and for English Language Learners. We must have a system that serves all students.

Most importantly, we must remember that a freshman who doesn’t plan to go to college might become a sophomore who does (and then a junior who doesn’t, and so on). My goal isn’t to get every child to college; it’s to get every child ready to do something after high school. College and career tech are the obvious paths, but not the only ones. When a high school has more than 90 percent of graduates either enrolling in college or participating in career tech programs, I feel that students are taking advantage of their opportunities. The other ten percent (or whatever the percentage is at a given school) matter too, and should ACT become the test that replaces the EOIs, this group’s needs have to be considered.

So Claudia, I thank you for that segue into my next point, after a recap of the first five:

  1. Students don’t care about the EOIs.
  2. Colleges don’t care about the EOIs either.
  3. This measure would save Oklahoma families money.
  4. This measure would save the state money.
  5. The ACT would fulfill NCLB requirements.
  6. Counselors would have more time to be counselors – Of all the people in schools whose jobs are not what they imagined them being, I think counselors have the worst of it. For all the principals who imagined themselves as instructional leaders but spent more time chasing dogs off campus, unclogging toilets, and settling disputes in the school drop-off line, there are even more counselors who spend way too much time securing test materials.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKkZhubwt04After testing and scheduling, counselors have little time left to provide actual guidance to students. Yes, we all have complicated jobs, but if the news from around the country tells us anything, it’s that our counselors need more time to meet the social/emotional needs of students.

    Last night’s #oklaed chat was a perfect illustration of that. The topic was bullying, and Claudia moderated the discussion. You should go back and read it if you weren’t able to participate.

    Social media has made bullying more prevalent and more complicated than ever. The hardest part of dealing with bullying in schools is helping the victims find the courage to report what’s happening to them. They need a relationship with their counselors more than they need a sharp #2 pencil. High school testing could be completed via the ACT. The counselors wouldn’t have to secure all the materials, beg for volunteers, collect forms from test administrators and monitors, and sign away their first-born to Rumpelstiltskin every spring. Tracking for remediation would be easier. They’d have more time to help kids.

  7. Teachers would have more time to be teachers – Yes, overtesting is a real thing. Those who write editorials love to point out that students only really have to take one or two EOIs per year in high school. This just shows they have no clue as to the disruption testing causes. I suppose you could argue that the benchmark testing and review weeks are the schools’ choice. You can’t argue, however, that a school having to turn every computer lab into a testing lab for weeks at a time is anything other than a disruption. If you believe that, ask a high school computer education teacher. You’ll soon learn differently.No matter what we use for testing – high-stakes or otherwise – schools are going to focus on the results. This might mean ACT prep classes, but many high schools have those already. What it won’t mean is more schools drilling for EOIs that aren’t well-linked to college-readiness. If we’re going to over-think our test results, let’s focus on a test that actually means something to students and colleges.
  8. The ACT unites K-12, Higher Ed, and Career Tech – Because the ACT has WorkKeys® as part of its assessment system, providing the ACT to high school students can help inform Career Tech placement decisions. From their website:ACT WorkKeys is a job skills assessment system that helps employers select, hire, train, develop, and retain a high-performance workforce. This series of tests measures foundational and soft skills and offers specialized assessments to target institutional needs. As part of ACT’s Work Readiness System, ACT WorkKeys has helped millions of people in high schools, colleges, professional associations, businesses, and government agencies build their skills to increase global competitiveness and develop successful career pathways.

    Because of this connection, Oklahoma’s career tech centers have always had an interest in working with students and parents to interpret EXPLORE scores (for eighth graders) and PLAN scores (for tenth graders). The State Regents have also utilized staff to help schools make the connections between these assessments and planning for the future. Even with EXPLORE and PLAN going away in the near future, letting students take an ACT during their sophomore year will help them if they choose a career tech program of study.

  9. Feedback will be timely – Do you know how long it takes us to get back our EOI test scores each year? Let’s see…we take them in late April or early May…we get preliminary scores in late May or early June…we get initial score reports in July (usually)…and we get final reports, if we’re lucky, right before school starts. With the ACT, students will have score reports in three weeks. If we choose a school day test date (as other states have done), we’ll have our own scoring window. If we choose to give students a ticket they can use on any national test date (making the in-school disruption even less), then we can get results back early in the year. Here’s how one reader put it in the comment section yesterday:I would love to see every 10th & 11th grader take the test in the Spring–and the most-motivated seniors can spend their final year trying to advance their scores.Depending on the “stakes,” of course. I’m fearful that this would push schools to force every student into ACT Prep classes, eliminating choice-electives, & maybe undermining the importance of the exam itself.

    Still, I think that this is such a simple solution. Kids will get an exam that actually has purposes and insights regarding their futures. Teachers can teach to the limits of their disciplines without pressures to “teach to the test.” And eliminating 7 EOIs will free-up so much time for teachers, various counselors and support personnel, and the KIDS. Anybody who has spent time in a large high school during testing-season knows that our current system is an administrative nightmare. And nothing really gets done, anywhere. What a waste!

    Lastly, maybe discussion can shift toward COLLEGE READINESS in a real way–we use that word a lot in my school, but I fear that it’s just lip-service. Maybe we don’t do a good enough job identifying kids that aren’t college-bound and providing them with realistic alternatives. Maybe a yearly-ACT check would help us serve this population better before it’s all too late.

She pretty well touches on several of the points I’m making today. Most importantly, schools can receive information we can use early. If students test twice, we can see if course selection is making any difference. We can offer assistance with whatever remains of the ACE remediation funds once the EOIs are gone.

  1. Schools can quit begging for volunteers during testing season – I think parental engagement is a great thing. I’ve seen this be the critical variable in a school that turns the corner. Sometimes that starts with a new principal or an influx of new staff, but school success comes down to parenting, more often than not. Does the school make parents feel welcome? Do parents treat the school with respect? Is this a relationship or a transaction?The current testing process makes school seem like a transaction. Sign this. Watch that. Keep everybody under watch. How much could we do with the same parents in our libraries? On our playgrounds? In capacities I’ve never even imagined?Parents are an often untapped resource. Eliminating the EOIs would be a step towards changing that. If we could similarly unburden our elementary and middle grades, imagine how powerful that would be!

    I’ll pick up there in Part III.

  1. Judy
    March 3, 2015 at 6:26 am

    Both tests are no- win situations for those who are served under Special Education, especially those who have extremely low cognitive skills. How would you address this?
    And yes, I am in favor of anything that eliminates the huge focus on testing.


    • March 3, 2015 at 6:29 am

      Sadly, I don’t have an answer that can be tackled in-state. I’ve always thought the OAAPs were insane. For students who are that low cognitively, why do we insist on testing…well, anything?!?!

      It’s been more than a decade since I’ve been a test proctor for ACT, but I have worked in rooms with students receiving basic accommodations (breaks, extended time, etc.). I’m sure someone knows more about the full list of accommodations available than I do.


  2. claudiaswisher
    March 3, 2015 at 7:34 am

    I’ve watched the schools gear up for massive testing…kids may only take one, but in a high school the size of Norman North, we administered thousands. Computer classes were displaced, library was closed…testing affects every student in school every year.

    In the last years of my career, the EOI season bled into the AP season, with many kids not catching a break at all. This would give AP students a real break…no EOIs to mess with…

    The climate of the schools would be so much less stressful for the last months of the year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 3, 2015 at 2:34 pm

      Is it students that felt they didn’t have a break or is it the administrators and teachers that don’t like putting in the effort to set up tests?

      As I noted in my comment on part I of this series, at my school we did no prep and taking the EOIs was much less stressful than a normal day in class. This was because they were so easy and the alternative was writing a practice FRQ etc. in a class like AP US History. The only person that looked stressed at all was our testing coordinator. The EOIs are based on what was supposed to be taught, so the entire school year is prep.

      Even at the start of Harding when we had 50 students that were much more demographically challenged than the current student body, we still had some of the highest pass rates. It seems to a little wacky to me that so much breath and ink is being expended on tests that are so simple they can only point out complete failures in education. Then I look at the test scores in a lot of high schools and the fact that we have one of the worst school systems in the country and realize the paradigm of everyone in the state can’t even fathom what high quality education in the state would actually look like because we are failing so miserably.

      I’m thinking of leaving Oklahoma when I have kids for this reason. Now that schools like Harding have a lottery and I can’t guarantee that my kid can go to a high value added school, it is depressing to think about education here.


      • March 3, 2015 at 5:32 pm

        I’m glad you received a good education at Harding and disappointed that you believe that school is the only good option for your future children.

        I’m glad that the EOIs were easy for you but disappointed that you don’t see the other side of the coin. Schools have many students who have struggled academically since day one. Writing about their struggles is worth the breath and ink.

        I’m also glad you have looked at test scores from other schools but disappointed you think this tells the whole story.

        Where we’re in agreement, it sounds, is in the belief that the EOIs are a waste of students’ time (and taxpayer dollars).


      • March 3, 2015 at 6:44 pm

        I’m not sure you really understand how Harding was in the 2003-2007 era. Most of the students in my class struggled mightily. This was before the yuppie takeover that our hard work laid the foundation for.

        When we would grade each other’s quizzes in the beginning of high school I wondered if some of the writing was even English. Because everyone was taking AP regardless of skill level the teachers had to make up grades because they would have all been in the 20’s. But that was the point, by setting expectations so high we all tried hard. By senior year was everyone getting 9’s on their FRQ’s? Of course not but they went from 1s to 6s. Only a few of us actually passed AP tests even though we all took them. A big part of the teachers effort went into consoling and encouraging those who got 1’s. And that’s why EOIs weren’t a big deal. In comparison it was easy compared to AP and what we endured.

        I think there are other good schools but there are only so many charter school spots in OKC public schools (I don’t plan on moving to the suburbs). It probably won’t be long until schools like Dove have a waiting list as well.

        Oklahoma students are being killed by low expectations. When we would talk to our peers we went to middle school with that stayed in standard schools like NW Classen they never had any homework, all the tests were scantron with no writing, and teachers were out the door at 3:30. It’s not hard to see why there was an achievement gap. You can say oh the kids weren’t motivated but clearly everyone at the school was skating by including teachers and admin. Those kids realized they were being left behind and that the system was failing them. Richard Caram was also having success in helping some of these schools turn around before he was dismissed.

        Every student should be exposed to classes as tough as AP and if they really can’t hack it OK needs to improve its program diverting kids to start training for valuable skills like electrical, plumbing, etc. High expectations are the cheapest way to improve educational outcomes.


  3. joeddins
    March 3, 2015 at 8:21 am

    Great ideas. 50,000 children enroll in the 9th grade. 5,000 have opt-out of the college prep curriculum. There are less than 40,000 taking the Algebra I EOi before dropping out or graduating. By enrollment for their Sr year,another 5,000+ families will sing the papers to opt-out of college prep. SDE does not count after 9th grade enrollment. How humiliating for the parents. Of the 35,000 graduates, 20,000 will begin college. 13,000 will not need remediation. After 6 one year,3,000 not needing remediation will drop out.After six years there will be only 4,500 Bachelors degrees, from this cohort. Meanwhile, of the 5,000 needing remediation almost 900 will earn a Bachelors Degree. This is for Oklahoma college students coming directly from Oklahoma H.S.
    In urban high schools other than the magnet schools, attendance is not high enough for a significant population to prepare for college.
    If 15,000 have ACT


  4. Kate
    March 3, 2015 at 10:22 am

    I don’t see that you really answered Claudia’s question, except to say that the State Board should set the cutoffs. (That’s a no-brainer; it would be a silly thing to put in law.) As long as ALL schools, including the smallest ones, and including those (such as those in the Panhandle) who don’t have a Career Tech, have real access to WorkKeys and the KeyTrain curriculum, we shouldn’t have a problem with students who aren’t interested in college.

    And we shouldn’t demean those students, nor should we hold out hope that they all will eventually do what we did and go to college. My doctorate was of absolutely no help when my washing machine broke last week — I am glad to have it, but I run into its uselessness all the time….


    • March 3, 2015 at 5:24 pm

      You’re right. I didn’t answer it very well. That’s mainly because there’s no perfect answer. My preference would be that there be no cut score, but I don’t think the legislature will give us that.


  5. joeddins
    March 3, 2015 at 6:50 pm

    The legislature directed the State Board to set performance levels and cut scores when they enacted Achieving Classroom Excellence. They further directed The SDE to set beginning cut scores in line with other states with tests that determined graduation. 20 other states failed between 2% and 10%. Gov Fallin appoints the Commission for Educational Quality and Accountability who set the cut scores after reviewing each years data. The SDE Accountability Report for 2012 said “with the class of 2012, students must pass the Algebra I EOI to graduate. With this additional requirement test scores should rise.” The passing rate went up only when the cut score was lowered. It is possible the only reason for the test is to punish students, teachers, and school boards. With out the punishment, ( here or with Common Core, or with Oklahomas’ “own” test) who cares? Suburban schools do not have to improve. ACE performance levels are 100% political. How will the legislature deal with ACT performance levels for punishing , when we know what the scores mean?


  6. Kate
    March 3, 2015 at 10:51 pm

    Good points (as usual), Joe.


  7. Mike M.
    March 7, 2015 at 9:04 am

    Exactly, politics screw UP ALL solutions, I say we quit trying to copy Korea and China and just do it the good old fashioned American way like we used to back in the old days. Engage the kids with GREAT questions NOT great fill-in the bubble answers or test scores. SCRAP all the crap and teach authentic lessons that are applicable to real life. I was a solid C student and went on the get a PHD so who cares right?!
    My wife was a Valedictorian with perfect ACT scores and now HATES to read because the pressure was soooo unbearable trying to keep up her entire life. Sad 😦 BURN OUT happens to the best of them, let’s put the joy back into learning.


  1. March 5, 2015 at 1:23 pm
  2. March 6, 2015 at 7:00 am
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