Sympathetic ears heard Muskogee teacher Darla Ryan talk about the fourth-grader who threw up twice on his state-mandated test.

About 65 Muskogee teachers, parents and students gathered Monday at Muskogee High School to talk about how high-stakes testing affects them. The gathering was part of the Oklahoma Education Association’s Common Sense Testing Tour, an effort to raise concern about high-stakes standardized tests.

Ryan, who teaches at Ben Franklin Science Academy, said the student continued to have problems with high-stakes tests through most of his school career. However, he grew up to be an information technology coordinator in Tulsa.

That student, she said, was her son.

“This was a young man, who, for six years, could not take a standardized test,” Ryan said. “This is a young man who dreaded that test.”

Ryan said people do not carry test results for the rest of their lives. However, the state places such importance on these tests that “we have gotten to the point to where we are stressing these students out so much,” she said.

“Is it going with you the rest of your life?” she asked. “It is only a test.”

For Oklahoma high school students, however, passing certain End of Instruction tests determine whether they’ll even get a diploma.

“When April comes around, I am so stressed out about the tests,” said Muskogee High School sophomore Rachel Cragg. She said she worries about the tests, even though she takes Advanced Placement classes and is excited about school.

“I want to know more. I want to learn to be a good citizen,” she said. “But I worry, if I fail the test, I’m not going to get a diploma.”

MHS senior Ashtonn Thompson said EOI tests do not forecast how well a student does in life. He said that when he applied for a job, he was asked about his skills and activities, not his EOI scores.

“The whole last term of school is being put off” because of having to prepare for the tests, Thompson said.

Most of those at the meeting were Muskogee Public Schools teachers. The rest were parents and students.

BFSA fifth-grade teacher Amy Tull, who did not speak at the program, said her students face added pressure because fifth-graders must take five state tests — writing, math, reading, science and social studies.

“Too much pressure is put on my grade,” Tull said. “They spend 15 hours just doing tests, from 8 to 11 a.m. for five days.”

She said she tries to prepare the students so they can feel comfortable, but she added that she walked into her classroom one test day and found her students engaged in a group prayer.

OEA is taking its Common Sense Testing Tour across the state in the days leading up to the Brighter Future Rally on Monday at the state Capitol. The rally is sponsored by the OEA, Oklahoma State School Boards Association, Oklahoma PTA and other organizations.

The tour goes to Tahlequah on Wednesday.

OEA Vice President Alicia Priest encouraged participants to tell their state legislators about their concerns.

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

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