Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Twilight Zone

You're traveling to another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound, but also of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of the imagination. At the sign post up ahead, your next stop, the twilight zone.'  (Take the time to go find some classic Twilight Zone TV series intro music and reread for the full effect). Oklahoma has moved straight out of reality and into the Twilight Zone with RSA. In this case, RSA might stand for Really Stupid Adults making absurd solutions for real problems.

What am I talking about this time you say? Let me explain: In Oklahoma, we want to know if our 3rd grade students can read at the 3rd grade level by the end of the year. Now mind you, most educators will tell you that by the end of the year, students in 3rd grade should be reading near the 4th grade level, but let’s not get bogged down with these minor details. So to determine reading level for our 3rd grade students, we use a language arts test; you know the kind of test that doesn’t measure fluency, phonics, phonemic awareness, but does ask comprehension, alphabetizing, a student’s knowledge of how to use an index, and their ability to use the dictionary. We are told this test is the test that determines whether 3rd grade students can read sufficiently to be promoted to the 4th grade. This is very important here in the RSA Twilight Zone; we are told the 3rd Grade OCCT is a sufficient measure of a student’s ability to read at the 3rd grade level. Got it? Let’s go on. So what if a student makes a 23 raw score. This student has to be retained because of their 23, but a student who made a 24 goes on to 4th grade. The OKSDE would have you believe this score on the OCCT has a student reading at least 2 grade levels behind (I say this student is 1 raw question short of becoming a 4th grader, and it’s still BS, but for the sake of argument we’ll go on). So what do we do now you ask? To expedite this example, we’ll head straight for the good cause exemption of building a portfolio. In the OKSDE’s very own portfolio FAQs implementation guide, it specifically says teachers are not allowed to use the OCCT to determine mastery. WHAT?! You got it folks, right there on page 17 it specifically says OCCT “reporting categories do not provide enough information to determine whether a student has mastered that particular area of Oklahoma State Standards”.  So a student who might have gotten the majority of the reading comprehension questions correct on the OCCT can’t use the reading comprehension portion of the OCCT to demonstrate mastery!

Please let me say this another way: The OCCT is s good enough test to tell the student they aren’t ready to move on to the 4th grade, but it isn’t a good enough test to determine if a student can move on the 4th grade! It doesn’t make any sense to me either. This, my friends, is the very definition of absurd. Now where is that sign post, the one that points the way back to reality? Someone needs to point our SDE in the right direction.