Working to Reduce Testing

By Rep. Mike Sanders

After the legislative session midpoint, House lawmakers immediately began work on reviewing education policy measures sent to us from the Oklahoma Senate. One bill in particular caught my attention as it will reduce overtesting, a complaint I hear regularly from the teachers in my district.

Senate Bill 708 has been advanced by a House committee and will soon be heard on the House floor. The legislation will eliminate tests in grades three through eight that are not required by federal law. Tests that will be eliminated include the arts assessment, fifth grade social studies and writing, seventh grade geography and eighth grade social studies and writing.

I strongly believe that testing is necessary to ensure accountability, but the current number of tests simply take time away from classroom instruction.

There is a similar bill, Senate Bill 707, which would replace end-of-instruction tests. This measure has faced more opposition, partially because its vague language does not clarify exactly what those tests would be replaced with and was amended in committee.

Senate Bill 630 and Senate Bill 785 would extend the current moratorium on automatic retention for most students who fail a reading test at the end of third grade. The bills also call for immediate remediation for any first-, second- or third-grade student who has been determined not to be reading at grade level. Both also raise the proficiency level required for automatic promotion to fourth grade.

Senate Bill 711 would require school districts to notify the state board of education when teachers are dismissed due to criminal charges that result in the revocation of their teaching certificate. The idea is to catch sexual predators and other criminals that sometimes manage to find employment with another school district after initially losing their job.

On March 30, there will be a rally for education at the Capitol. I look forward to visiting with educators, parents and superintendents in my district. I look forward to discussing and moving education forward in our state. Teacher retention is one of many issues our school districts face. A plan needs to be developed and I look forward to hearing about solutions and fixes to our system.

I have been impressed thus far with Joy Hofmeister, our new state superintendent, and her team. She has gotten off on the right foot and she is listening. It is refreshing and I have all confidence in her.

My door is open to you at all times. You can reach my legislative office at (405) 557-7407, e-mail or stop by Room 205 at 2300 North Lincoln Boulevard in Oklahoma City.

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