, Muskogee, OK

December 28, 2013

Testing change gets failing grade

— The Oklahoma Department of Education’s decision to eliminate the Oklahoma Modified Alternate Assessment Program does not have the state’s students’ best interest in mind.

A modified test was offered for students on Individual Education Plans, or IEPs. These students usually are considered special education or learning disabled.

Not all students are created equal. For years, the state Department of Education seemed to realize that. Now, all students will take the same test.

The Oklahoma Department of Education says most states do not offer modified tests such as OMAAP. Others are phasing it out. The sheet cites regulations and requirements from the National Center on Education Outcomes that all tests be aligned with grade-level content of the student being tested.

Some will say a modified test does not create a level playing field, and this will ensure test scores will be reported fairly.

That is a very black-and-white approach to something that requires some “gray” thinking, especially when the futures of these students rest on these tests.

The state eliminated the Oklahoma Modified Alternate Assessment Program for High School End of Instruction tests in math, English, biology and U.S. history. High school students who took modified EOI tests before this school year will be able to retake the OMAAP through 2016, if needed.

High school students will not receive a diploma if they do not pass the EOI tests. Seniors need to pass four of seven EOI exams to be eligible to graduate. They must pass English 2 and Algebra 1 and any two tests in biology, American history, geometry, Algebra 2 or English 3.

OMAAP discontinuation has prompted area districts to step up their education of special needs students. At most area districts, nearly 5 percent of test-taking students took the OMAAP.

 Debbie Winburn, Muskogee Public Schools’ director of special education, said the elimination is concerning.

“Realistically, the student with a 72 IQ that is in the eighth grade is not going to score on grade level for reading,” she said. “There should be some kind of formula where there is a way to grade it by growth.”

We agree. The OMAAP system works.

There’s no reason to change it.