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State Testing Changes

A message from the State Department of Education

State test scores to change dramatically after complete overhaul

In 2016, Oklahoma began teaching more comprehensive academic standards, which required a new, more complex Oklahoma School Testing Program (OSTP) assessments to measure them. The new tests were given to students in the spring of 2017 and the cut scores or proficiency levels for the tests were reset to reflect the new rigorous standards. Superintendent Dr. Sean McDaniel said he wants to prepare Mustang families for changes within the state testing program before scores are released this semester.

“What this means to our parents is that the percentage of students who routinely excel at the state tests and and who are accustomed to scoring proficient or advanced, is expected to drop significantly,” McDaniel said. “Parents and students need to know they are still doing as well as they did before. Our teachers in Mustang are still as excellent as they were before. The change is that the state tests and the scoring of the tests were much more rigorous. The entire state will see the same drop when test scores are released. This is not a Mustang issue.”

McDaniel stressed that state testing is only one measure of the academic health of a student, school or school district, but they’re necessary and provide valuable information.

“The assessments have value in showing how Oklahoma compares to other states across the nation. As a state, 39 percent of our students who go to college must take remedial courses before they can begin taking classes for credit,” he said. “That not only costs our parents and students thousands of dollars, but it also is a strong indicator of whether or not a student will finish a degree. The Oklahoma State Department of Education wanted to provide a measure of performance in grades 3-8 that will provide an indication if students are on track to be prepared for college, vocational certification, or a career after high school.”

One measure for states to evaluate the success of their students is the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). This test is given to a sampling of students in districts across the United States every year allowing states to see how their students compare to students across the country. In 2012-2013, for example, there was a 42 percent decrease in how well Oklahoma students performed in 8th grade math on the state assessment versus the NAEP. Forty-five states have raised their standards for student proficiency in reading and math since 2011. The new assessments also align with national benchmarks like the ACT and SAT.

“Making changes in Oklahoma was necessary to bring education in the state to the next level,” McDaniel said. “There’s a term in education called “Depth of Knowledge,” which deals with the complexity of what students learn and can be tested on. Difficulty and complexity are not the same thing. The new testing introduced more level 3 depth of knowledge questions that require higher-level mental processing like reasoning, planning and using evidence. The more rigorous testing also added level 4 depth of knowledge for the first time. Level 4 DOK requires complex reasoning, planning, developing and thinking over an extended period.”

McDaniel stressed that the results coming out this month for schools and those for individual students at the end of November are considered “baseline” scores. They are the first scores for the new testing system and must stand alone; they cannot be compared to the results from any test that came before and represent a total reset of the testing system.

“The scores about to come out will be shocking for anyone that doesn’t have the background on what was changed and why,” McDaniel said. “This is the starting point for improving the educational process in the entire state. Again, every school in the state is facing the same thing and those scores will improve over the years to come. In the end, Oklahoma scores will be much closer to the nationally recognized NAEP scores and our students should be better prepared for life after graduation. We need our parents to understand and to help their children to understand, they are just as smart and just as successful as they were before. It was the test and the process that has changed.”

Oklahoma schools will receive their results this month. Individual test scores are expected to be released at the end of November.

In a nutshell

  • There was a significant difference in student success rates on Oklahoma’s state tests versus national tests. 
  • 39 percent of Oklahoma students in 2015 had to take remedial classes in college, which greatly increases the likelihood that they will not graduate. 
  • A task force put together by the Oklahoma State Department of Education made recommendations to 1. provide a measure of performance in grades 3-8 that would indicate whether a student is on track for college and career readiness (CCR)  and 2. to utilize the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data to establish statewide comparison in grades 4 and 8 and to raise the bar on standards to the national level.
  • Therefore, comprehensive science, math and ELA standards were put into place.
  • Teachers have only had ONE YEAR to teach the new standards. 
  • A much more difficult assessment was given in 2017 as students are held to a higher standard to better prepare them for college and careers. 
  • Changes involve an increase in “Depth of Knowledge,” a term used to describe the complexity of a learning task.
  • For the test results, which will be released to parents at the end of November, no comparison is available to previous years.
  • Don’t panic. Scores will improve over time as the state educational system settles into the new standards.