Mr. Carey is the author of the OCPA study Hot Air: How Oklahoma Inflates Its Educational Progress Under No Child Left Behind.
Comes now a new independent study (video from press conference here) which raises some of the very same points. "A report indicating that Oklahoma student test results may be skewed could lead to reform efforts this year," according to a House press release:
The report, "Organizing Effective Educational Accountability: The Case of Oklahoma," was released today by the Oklahoma Business and Education Coalition, a partnership of business and education leaders who are committed to continually improving the quality of Oklahoma's K-12 public education.
The report noted that the vast majority of public school students are ranked "proficient" in subjects on Oklahoma's state-mandated tests, but very few achieve the same rating on comparable national tests such as the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP).
For example, in 2007 state tests indicated 94 percent of Oklahoma fourth graders were proficient in reading, but just 27 percent achieved that status on the NAEP. Similar huge gaps existed in every subject area in every grade where both state and national tests are conducted.
The OBEC report indicated the problem may be the result of consolidating most testing authority in one state agency -- the Oklahoma Department of Education. The report noted the agency is in charge of test contracts, data reporting, and school rewards and sanctions.
Perhaps most importantly, the agency sets the "cut" scores for state tests, determining what constitutes a passing grade each year. The OBEC report notes that Oklahoma "has some of the lowest proficiency cut scores in the nation."
In addition, the superintendent of public instruction (who heads the agency) is a member of most state boards that would otherwise provide independent oversight of testing standards. ...
"Regardless of who holds the office of superintendent of public instruction, whether Democrat or Republican, that individual will be under political pressure to set ‘cut’ scores at a level that reflects well on his or her tenure in office," said state Rep. Lee Denney, a Cushing Republican who chairs the House Appropriations & Budget Subcommittee on Education."
State Sen. Clark Jolley (R-Edmond), a former public school teacher, added: "If we really want Oklahoma students to succeed in school and in life, we must have complete transparency and an objective analysis of data that shows us how our students are doing compared to other states. We simply do not have that now."
No, we do not. As I pointed out a year and a half ago, you know Oklahoma's cut scores are too low when -- get this -- you can get more questions wrong than you get right and still be considered proficient.