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Two Bills Seek to Replace End-of-Instruction Exams with One Test. But What Test?

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There are two bills idling in the legislature that would address what many have called excessive testing in Oklahoma’s schools. But the two bills are fundamentally different.

School children in Oklahoma – and across the country—take quite a few tests these days.

Some believe - too many.

It was under this same premise that Representative David Derby wrote House Bill 1622.

"I got pulled in to the principal’s office, quite literally in Owasso, from one of the counselors there at the high school. And she said, Representative Derby, we are testing our kids too much."

Currently, a student in Oklahoma will take 26 standardized tests from third to twelfth grade. Some of them are required by federal law, others just by the State.

House Bill 1622 would eliminate all tests-- grades K through 12-- that are not required by the federal government. So, about nine tests. 

Another bill, by Senator John Ford, aims to reduce testing as well. But Senate Bill 707 deals specifically with high school tests.

Both bills want to consolidate the seven exams that high schoolers take to graduate in to just one comprehensive assessment.  

But what kind of assessment? That’s the difference.

"The difference between 1622 and 707 is that 1622 ties that comprehensive test to the state standards that are currently being written by the State Board of Education."

Representative Derby’s bill requires that the test be tweaked to align with the state academic standards. He says testing companies like Iowa, Terra Nova, and ACT Aspire can do this.

Senate Bill 707 says the State Department of Education can use any exit exam, as long as it aligns with the standards. It doesn’t necessarily have to be tweaked.

Superintendent Joy Hofmeister has already publicly announced that she is in favor of using the American College Test—or ACT.

But Derby, and others, don’t like that idea.

"I don’t believe that it is designed to do what they want it to do," he said.

Derby says the ACT will not align with state academic standards, and can’t be changed to do so because it’s a national test. Therefor it’s not a good measure of Oklahoma student’s academic achievement.

Senator Ford disagrees.

"Our new standards that we’re developing must be college and career ready. The ACT measures college and career readiness. To me they are absolutely aligned."

Ford says colleges already require students to take the ACT to get in, so it just makes sense. An ACT score in addition to the student’s GPA would help determine mastery of the subject.

"I think its also important for us in Oklahoma to know how well our students are doing relative to other states in America," he said.

Both bills are currently awaiting further attention in the Legislature. And each bill requires public comment, and agreement among many education officials. So either way it goes- the debate is far from over.

Emily Wendler was KOSU's education reporter from 2015 to 2019.
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