BY SHARON MARTIN
I love my school. Kids are greeted with smiles and by name. Teachers work together, all of us responsible for every student. Walk down the hall and you see students working and teachers moving about the classrooms. There are engaged moments and quiet ones when students are reading, writing, or taking a quiz.
We may be a low-income area, but our school has PE, a music teacher, and a counselor. We have a well-stocked library, an astute librarian, and healthy lunches. We have a principal who supports her teachers and advocates for students.
There is real learning going on, but the learning is not reflected in the Oklahoma State Department of Education scorecard. Our score is invalid, and here are a few reasons why.
1. There is a .99 correlation between test scores and socio-economics, and our school serves a large percentage of low-income families. This is not an excuse; you can map low-income districts with SDE scorecards.
2. The school grading formula is heavily weighted toward academic advancement among the lowest-achieving students. Since we serve a large number of special-needs students, there is no way we can win even though our low-scoring students make real advances.
3. Finally, there is some real flim-flammery going on with testing and scoring.
The District Test Coordinator recently received an e-mail from SDE telling us that we could appeal individual writing scores. Since half a point would raise our school’s score a whole letter grade, rescoring Writing Assessments seemed like a good idea until we read the fine print.
For each Writing Assessment rescored, we must send a Rescore Request Form and a Purchase Order made out to CTB.
How much does it cost to get a second opinion? If the score does not change, the cost is $125 … per student.
Who is scoring the writing assessment? Will the scorer be a human or a program? Will it be the same person or program who scored the writing originally? How are human scorers trained? Are they writers? Teachers? Unemployed winos? And who gets the money for rescoring?
And why should we even consider rescoring? Does SDE know something we don’t?
What opportunities could we give our students if we weren’t spending time and money on dubious testing? What if we concentrated on all the students instead of those at the bottom? What if we spent money on educational opportunities instead of standardized testing for non-standardized children?
Despite the flawed scorecard, teachers at my school and across the state will continue to teach. We don’t get support from our State Superintendent of Public Education, but we can count on support here at home. And our students can count on us.
– Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer