MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

September 14, 2013

SUNDAY EXTRA: Delay in test scores may trip seniors

Teachers won’t know in time which ones need help to pass graduation exams

By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer

— The delayed release of 2013 state test results could put some high school seniors at risk of not getting their diplomas.

The Oklahoma Department of Education released preliminary core curriculum and End of Instruction test results to schools Aug. 28. That’s at least one week after area schools started their year and at least one month later than in past years.

The delay keeps educators from determining which students need additional help in particular fields of study. Without that help — in the form of remedial classes or more individualized attention — the students could face tougher odds of passing this year’s End of Instruction exams.

Seniors need to pass four of seven EOI exams to be eligible to graduate:

• English 2 and Algebra 1.

• And any two of biology, American history, geometry, Algebra 2 or English 3.

“They’re getting their tests scores so late, they haven’t had any time to plan for remedial classes,” Hilldale Principal Deborah Tennison said. “So now they have to find a way to go to school early or stay late or go on Saturday.”

Hilldale offers a remedial class for one hour each morning. But it has not set up other remediation periods yet, Tennison said, adding that it’s too late for students to enroll for the class this semester.

“It’s too late to plan for remediation classes when you don’t know how many kids are going to be in the class,” she said.

The delay could affect 20 to 25 students, which is enough to merit another class, she said, adding, “And now it is hard to get a teacher.”

Hilldale Superintendent Dr. Kaylin Coody said students do not get as intense help in before- or after-school programs as they do in a regular class.

“If we are going to have high-stakes testing, we need scores early enough to enable us to focus on being able to work with the students,” she said, adding that school officials are “just now” getting preliminary test scores and information on which students need help in which areas.

Principal Gary Sparks of Fort Gibson High School said: “We don’t have any of the scores yet. We were supposed to get them in July and here we are, closing in on October.

“If they fail the test, they are required to take remediation,” he said.

Fort Gibson, which divides its academic year into three terms, offers regular classes running two trimesters, Sparks said.

“If they need remediation, we put them in a three-trimester class,” he said. The school also offers math tutoring before school four days per week, he said.

The Education Department’s communications director, Sherry Fair, attributed the delayed release to two factors:

• Computer server problems from the state’s testing provider, CTB/McGraw-Hill, which disrupted testing for more than 9,000 students April 29-30.

• The department’s independent study, conducted in July, on whether the computer disruption compromised student test scores. A DOE media release said the HumRRO Statistical Investigation of Oklahoma Disruptions indicated that affected students appeared to do as well on the test as those not involved in the disruption.

Muskogee Public Schools’ Reading and Assessment director, Joyce Weston, said CTB/McGraw-Hill notified districts in May that the End of Instruction test scores would be released by July 31 and core curriculum results for grades three through eight would be released by Aug. 6. She showed a copy of the latest memo the district received. It says scores would be released on its website Aug. 28 and posted for correction Aug. 30.

Districts will have until Sept. 30 to verify test scores. The memo said districts have from Oct. 10 to 23 to review the A-F report cards. The Oklahoma Board of Education will review the A-F report cards at its Oct. 24 meeting. Scores will not be final until then, the memo said.

The test score delay causes problems in other areas, school officials said.

 “We’ve had some of the students waiting on the test scores to find out if they are going to get their diplomas for graduation,” Tennison said.

“Graduates might find out they didn’t pass the test,” Coody said.

Sparks said the delay also interferes with seniors who want to take concurrent enrollment classes with area colleges. He said they might enroll in the class but then be told they did not pass one of the EOI tests.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or cspaulding@muskogeephoenix.com.