MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

April 7, 2013

Testing time truncated

Delay in state writing exam causes pileup for students

By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Students in fifth and eighth grades put pencils to paper for the state writing test last week, two months later than they have in the past.

However, some teachers and administrators did not welcome the delay.

“It just makes for a long testing period,” said Hilldale Elementary Principal Kair Ridenhour. “It puts a lot of pressure on the kids and the testing window.”

April normally is the month for core-curriculum tests in reading, math, science and social studies. This year is no different.

Including the state writing test, students will undergo six days of testing in three weeks, Ridenhour said.

Joyce Weston, the director of assessment in Muskogee Public Schools, said the tests were delayed “because there was a problem getting a contract between test vendor and the state.”

“It’s given us more time to get ready, but it does push all our testing to a shorter time,” Weston said, adding that the biggest strain would be on people who have to prepare the test for the students.

Regular core curriculum tests will begin Wednesday, she said.

Students took two writing tests last week, but only one will count for a state grade, Weston said.

“One is the operational test, what the kids are graded on,” she said. “The other is a field test to see how our students react to the prompts.”

The state will gather statistics and data from the field test to see whether it is appropriate for future tests.

Fifth-graders also faced a more complex writing test this year, said Hilldale fifth-grade teacher Heather Keith.

“Last year, the writing prompt was like, ‘You had a fairy tale, write the end of the story,’” Keith said.

This year, students have two different reading genres to write about, she said.

Keith’s students tried a practice test in which they read a poem by James Hogg and a biography about him. The prompt asked students to write a persuasive opinion piece about whether Hogg’s poem was about a dog or a person.

“You will want to include an introduction, at least three facts and a conclusion,” Keith said.

The students had more time to prepare for the test, but they are under more pressure in April, she said, adding, “I kind of liked having it in February.”

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