Gist Cuts Tulsa Schools’ Standardized Testing Time by 54%


After criticism, analysis and a new leader, Tulsa Public Schools has agreed to reduce mandated testing time by 54%.

Dr. Deborah A. Gist, superintendent, says standardized testing is a way in which teachers, schools, and districts can interpret how individual students and entire schools are doing and determine how to assist students who need more help, writes Nour Habib of Tulsa World. But, says Gist, the methods used to test students should be as focused, effective, and streamlined as can be, and the information garnered should be used as a way to improve instruction.

Gist is of the opinion that teachers, principals should be actively involved in the decision-making surrounding the tests. Through surveys, teacher forums, and other data-gathering methods, the topic of testing came up numerous times. Because of this, a decision was made to cut in half the amount of time Tulsa Public Schools' students spend on district-required standardized testing.

A growing number of complaints had much to do with the change, says Emory Bryan, reporting for KOTV-Tulsa. The new TPS superintendent announced this week that she wants to give teachers and parents "more flexibility in the classroom." At a Board of Education meeting, Gist informed those gathered that all pre- and post-unit assessments are now optional. Third-graders will not be required to take the MAP English Language Arts test, and secondary students will take the Scholastic Reading Inventory, used to establish reading levels, three times a year rather than four.

For one of Gist's first big decisions, she had the support of many teachers, parents, and students. During the summer, the new superintendent met with 150 Tulsa teachers to get their input and their suggestions for improvement. A TPS committee which studied the importance of the tests determined that some of the tests could be eliminated, an action that would save money and time. Still, there are parents who are concerned that cutting tests will result in a decrease in standards.

But teachers have said that the information gathered is not worth the time that is taken away from classroom instruction. Some parents have argued that test measurements do not always indicate their children's actual capabilities.

"Some kids can't take a test, some take a test great and they're going to get better scores even though the one who can't take tests well might be smarter," parent Jean Baker said.

Now that the board is apprised of the plans, specifics can be put in place before assessments begin in the spring.

KTUL-TV's Burt Mummolo says that kids who are dreading getting back in the school routine should take heart because this year the deadly standardized tests will be significantly reduced.

"We were able to spend a lot of time discussing what felt necessary, what felt unnecessary," said kindergarten teacher Megan Cox.

Almost 50 tests have been done away with. Cox says this means there will be a large chunk of time that teachers can use to teach — but the same cannot be said about teachers statewide.

"We still have a long way to go because our children are over-tested on the state level," said Oklahoma PTA President Brenda Heigl, hoping that the state will take a hint from TPS.

Testing is not the only method teachers have of assessing their students, Heigl added.

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