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Schools to implement new testing standards

New testing standards that are being adopted at public schools in Oklahoma will be a better gauge of learning than the previous benchmark used for evaluating student progress.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was passed by Congress in December 2015 as a new standardized evaluation system to replace the No Child Left Behind act that was authorized in 2002. That national system of testing was flawed since it was a one-size-fits-all effort to judge student testing.

The ESSA will allow states to develop their own method of testing and is currently in a transition phase due to go into effect for the 2017-2018 school year. The new testing method will allow states to put their own educational standards in place, according to Yukon Public Schools Curriculum and Assessment Director Kathy Davis.

In the past, a battery of End of Instruction (EOI) tests in certain subjects measured student academic progress. But with the state’s ESSA criteria, students must take only three tests, and they can be taken anytime during their four-year high school careers.

The tests are 10th grade science, 10th grade math, and English Language Arts (reading). A fourth test, in Social Studies or U.S. History, must also be taken whenever a student is ready.

“Each state decides when they give the tests,” Davis said. “Oklahoma decided that sophomores will take the English test, math test and the science test.”

“Having those big (EOI) tests at the end of the year really didn’t tell us anything except what kids knew at the moment — not what they are going to retain.”

Currently, the state is in the process of developing testing standards for when the ESSA takes effect next school year.

“You must have good, strong standards and you use those standards to give stronger instruction,” said Davis, “then you assess them as you’re going along in the subject with ‘teacher-made’ tests.”

“With the old law you had to go from point A to point B before the test…but we’d rather the kids learn it, and learn it well, so they retain it for life. ESSA helps us by giving us more local control and it gives the states more control.

“A lot of teachers have come in to the district and right now they’re working on what those assessments are going to look like. Teachers from all over the state are coming to the state department and working on those assessments to meet the federal requirements.”

Davis said No Child Left Behind was not effective because it didn’t meet the needs of all students whereas ESSA is tailor made by each state and will be a better gauge of student performance.

“If the state comes out with a strong plan this year, that looks at student performance, they’re going to be able to have more growth with their students because there’s going to be a better understanding of the subject,” Davis said. “So if all that falls into place, it’s going to be a better system for our kids.”

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