To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Observercast

Testing Is Oklahoma Teachers’ Top Concern

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BY JOHN THOMPSON

Thompson,JohnOklahoma’s underfunded schools had plenty of problems before funding was cut 23%, the most of any state. This year we’ll face more cuts and Oklahoma teachers, already ranked 49th nationally in salaries, will probably face another year without a raise.

It is no surprise that the state has a shortage of 1,000 teachers, and 40% of new teachers leave the profession or Oklahoma within five years.

Neither should it be a surprise that the Tulsa World’s Nora Habib, in Report Says Oklahoma Teachers’ Greatest Concern Is Testing, notes that Oklahoma teachers are frustrated  by “overcrowded classrooms, changing reforms, decreased classroom autonomy and a lack of representation in policy discussions.”

But guess what Stand for Children learned in a “Listening Tour” and from focus groups with 81 teachers from across the state? Stand learned that “testing was the issue of greatest concern for teachers.” Teachers also believe “reforms written from a ‘one size fits all’ approach … ultimately doom any practical implementation.”

The section on the concern that gained the most attention began with representative teachers’ statements such as, “So much time has been consumed with testing, over testing, to the point kids have lost all motivation for the test that really matters.” It closes with the protest, “The whole focus is on testing and not learning … there’s no passion for learning.”

Stand’s most watched conclusion involved the TLE evaluation system [which was adopted in an effort to win a Race to the Top federal grant.] Teachers recognize the problems with all practical policy solutions for evaluating teachers. Stand concludes that the benefits of peer evaluations seemed to outweigh their concerns because they “instigated more interaction and collaboration among teachers.”

The report also concludes, “Teachers believe tying teacher evaluations to student test scores should be delayed until student assessments can be aligned to newly written standards that would better reflect a teacher’s role in student growth.”

Republican State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister joined the chorus, saying that “it was “illuminating” to hear from teachers about the effects of overtesting.” She commented, “Teachers statewide said that excessive testing steals valuable instruction time and takes student focus away from actually learning the material.”

The Oklahoma Stand for Children doesn’t yet seem ready to completely abandon high stakes tests. But if they keep listening to educators as teachers, administrators, and families reject test, sort, and punish, I’m confident they will help us repudiate that failed experiment.

Dr. John Thompson, an education writer whose essays appear regularly in The Oklahoma Observer and at the Huffington Post, currently is working on a book about his experiences teaching for two decades in the inner city of OKC. He has a doctorate from Rutgers University and is the author of Closing the Frontier: Radical Responses in Oklahoma Politics.

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Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton became editor of The Observer in September 2006. Previously, he served nearly two decades as the Dallas Morning News’ Oklahoma Bureau chief. He also covered government and politics for the San Jose Mercury News, the Dallas Times Herald, the Tulsa Tribune and the Oklahoma Journal.