July 10, 2015

Oklahoma PTA Votes to Boycott Tests

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Nate Robson

Nate Robson

EDUCATION WATCH BLOG
July 10, 2015

Oklahoma’s Parent Teacher Association voted Friday to boycott all non-federally mandated tests in an attempt to pressure lawmakers to cut back the number of high-stakes tests students take.

The boycott targets the state’s controversial writing tests, history and geography tests and any end-of-instruction tests not needed to graduate, but would not affect most math, English and science tests.

Oklahoma PTA President Jeffery Corbett said the resolution shows parents believe it’s time to end standardized testing.

“I think this resolution gives a voice to parents across the state in a unified effort to positively impact public education in Oklahoma,” he said. “Our children look to us, as parents, to provide them the opportunity to be successful throughout life.”

Federally mandated tests not affected by the boycott include:

  • Third through eighth grade reading and math
  • Fifth and eighth grade science
  • Algebra I, English II and biology I end-of-instruction exams in high school

Non-federally mandated tests that would be boycotted include:

  • Fifth grade social studies and writing
  • Seventh grade geography
  • Eighth grade U.S. history and writing
  • Algebra II, geometry, English III and U.S. history end-of-instruction exams (Oklahoma requires students to pass algebra I and English II in addition to two other EOIs. Federal law requires students to take the biology exam, but it does not require them to pass it.)

It’s too early to know how big an impact a formal boycott will have in Oklahoma.

Opt-out movements have occurred in other states, including New York and Washington.

Reports indicate about a quarter of 11th grade students opted out of testing in Washington. The New York Times reported about one out of six students opted out of testing this past year in New York.

Education Superintendent Joy Hofmeister on Wednesday said lawmakers could have avoided the PTA resolution by supporting legislation cutting the number of tests.

It’s not clear whether she supports the resolution.

The Oklahoma Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, said they want to see testing reduced, but would not say whether they supported the resolution.

The main concern is a testing boycott could hurt schools and teachers. That’s because blank tests count against teachers in evaluations and against schools on their A-F report cards.

The PTA resolution does ask that the state Department of Education not use the test scores to calculate school A-F grades.

The resolution also calls for the department to exempt all schools from A-F grading if less than 95 percent of their students are tested.

Nate Robson can be reached at nrobson@oklahomawatch.org



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