Tuesday, May 24, 2016

House Votes to Reduce K-12 Testing

Legislation approved Monday by the Oklahoma House of Representatives will reduce testing in public schools.

House Bill 3218 eliminates three EOI tests and several grade 3-8 tests in the upcoming year and gives the state education department the authority to make further changes. The bill also removes passage of the remaining EOI tests as a requirement for graduation. The education department is instead charged with coming up with new graduation requirements.

The bill was carried by Rep. Lee Denney, R-Cushing.

“We hope to strike the right balance on testing and classroom instruction,” Denney said. “We need to have some record of progress in our public schools, but not to the extent that it interferes with the primary purpose of public schools – to educate students.”

Oklahoma House of Representatives Speaker Jeffrey W. Hickman said the legislation balances classroom time with accountability. “This bill will result in more classroom time for our teachers to teach and students to learn,” said Hickman, R-Fairview. 

House Bill 3218 reduces the number of required tests to 18, from a maximum of 27. Remaining tests are:

One English and one math test in each grade from 3 to 8; 
Two science tests, one in grades 3-5 and one in grades 6-9; 
and four high school tests in English, math, science and U.S. history.

All of the remaining tests except for U.S. History are required by the federal government under the Every Student Succeeds Act. Tests removed include an art test, seventh-grade geography, fifth- and eighth-grade social studies and writing tests and three end-of-instruction tests.

The legislation requires existing tests to be used in the upcoming school year, but authorizes the state education department to look for new assessments to fulfill the federal and state requirements for the next year. 

State Rep. John Bennett said House Bill 3218 relieves schools from the burdens of over-testing while still meeting the requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. Bennett co-authored the bill along with numerous other representatives.

“We’ve known for a long time we have too much testing in our schools,” said Bennett, R-Sallisaw, “but coming up with a bill that all parties can agree on – teachers, parents, students, community stakeholders – that has been a lot of work."

The bill is supported by the State Department of Education and the State Board of Education as well as teachers and other education groups such as the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration as well as the Oklahoma State Chamber and other business groups.

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