Tahlequah Daily Press


July 8, 2013

Testing issues a prime concern

TAHLEQUAH — Cherokee County residents are clearly confused, or at least ambivalent, about the Common Core standards purportedly governing the progress of students across the country.

Common Core is essentially the Obama administration’s version of George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” plan. Both constitute sincere efforts aimed at enhancing student performance and success, thus ensuring U.S. graduates can compete on a global scale. And as can be expected of any project involving input from myriad sources, the revamped program – like its predecessor – has its flaws. One involves computer glitches, as reported by local students who underwent testing last term. These technological problems were so serious, in fact, that State Sen. Earl Garrison believes the results should be thrown out.

A key gripe teachers and parents alike have about these national programs is that they involve too much testing, rather than cognitive learning. When students spent most of their time prepping for comprehensive exams, they’re not really learning anything new. And while a student can quickly memorize enough material to pass a test with flying colors, retaining that information for later recall is another matter.

Serious problems with a multistate standardized testing consortium have prompted Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi to drop out of the group, and come up with the state’s own system for gauging student progress. Barresi, who is up for re-election next year, has raised eyebrows among some lawmakers critical of her tenure. State Rep. Mike Brown is among those questioning her motives. He also points out it was Barresi herself who hired the company that managed the faulty testing.

Garrison wouldn’t mind the state’s coming up with its own program, but he doesn’t want to needlessly spend large sums to do it, when satisfactory results could come from the state’s two research universities, OU and OSU. Garrison’s suggestion is sound; not only would common education students get a new and hopefully better testing mode, the work would provide a valuable opportunity for the universities and their graduate students.

Most tenured educators agree something needs to change. Parents and school district patrons are torn; most don’t like the current testing, and for that reason, many agree with Barresi’s decision, even if they don’t like other actions she has taken. Others disagree with the decision to withdraw from the consortium just because they don’t like Barresi.

As for Barresi herself, she remains a controversial figure – so much so that she has already drawn an opponent from her own Republican Party: Joy Hofmeister of Tulsa. On the other side of the aisle, Dr. John Cox, long-time Peggs School superintendent, is also eyeing a run. Hofmeister, a former educator, seems savvy, detail-oriented and interested in student welfare. As for Cox, Press staffers can affirm, from years of working with him, that he knows his stuff.

Nothing is more important than the students of this state – not just because they’re our kids, but because they’re our future. Barresi’s actions in the coming months, and the movement of chess pieces on the quest for that office, should be of prime concern to all Oklahomans.

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