EOI testing

For 15 years, I’ve held my tongue on the issue, but I have always opposed end-of-instruction (EOI) tests. I remained silent because many or most of my colleagues supported them.

Educators on my side of the fence often protested that we were the only ones who were being blamed when so-called “student performance” fell short, but, even though we mostly agreed that high-stakes standardized testing was wrong, teachers were tempted to support it in order to hold students accountable.

By now, it should be clear that high-stakes EOIs were a mistake. They created irresistible pressure to focus unflinchingly on remediation as opposed to providing engaging instruction and building on students’ strengths.

A decade ago, I urged the OKCPS to take a different path toward meeting the EOI challenge, but I also learned that our administrators and teachers did a far better job of preparing lower-skilled students for the graduation exams than I thought was possible. Since the law requiring students to pass four EOIs did not take effect until after I quit teaching, it’s not bragging, and I am free to say that the OKCPS deserves great credit for doing whatever it took to avoid an explosion in the dropout rate. The district has not received the congratulations that it deserves, and I don’t believe that non-educators realize how exhausting and demoralizing the process has been.

HB 1622 would eliminate several EOI tests

Currently, Rep. David Derby (R-Owasso) and a bipartisan coalition of legislators deserve credit for HB 1622, which would eliminate all EOI tests that are not mandated by the federal government. It would reduce the current tests from 26 to 17.

That being said, my full position on this issue echoes the timid approach that I used to take on EOIs during the early years of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). I prefer HB 1622 even over a similar bill authored by Sen. John Ford (R-Bartlesville) and State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister’s approach, which would replace EOIs with the ACT.

But even now that we may be liberated from the test-sort-reward-and-punish federal mandates of the past 15 years, job pulling together as a team to create win-win policies should be job number one.

Since ACT has WorkKeys tests that aren’t unfair to lower-performing students, and since the State Department of Education is once again led by wise professionals, I am confident that we can share victory after victory. Our state has always had high-quality standards of instruction, and we have just completed a new set of excellent standards. Oklahoma seems to be on the path toward ending the ridiculous part of the TLE teacher evaluation system that uses growth in test scores.

As we continue to rid ourselves of the vestiges of the destructive bubble-in mania that was started by NCLB — and which was made worse under Arne Duncan — the motivation by under-the-gun systems for imposing drill-and-kill malpractice will recede.

So, I will say nothing to undercut educators who disagree on this, but I support HB 1622.