Social Studies, geography tests are a bit lower

Public school student testing showed a modest improvement based on statewide testing from the 2015-16 school year.

Statewide Social Studies scores in grades five, seven and eight decreased from 2015 to 2016. The Social Studies assessments for grades 5 and 8 are in the final year of a three-year transition to more rigorous academic standards, while grade 7 geography is in the second year of a three-year transition.

“Literacy is the key that unlocks the door to success in both school and life. Stronger student performance scores on third-grade and fifth-grade reading tests are promising, and we must continue to build on that success,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister. “The slight dip in fourth grade signals the need to boost efforts to help children who need it most.”

Reading scores for third- and fifth-grade students showed modest improvement. The number of third-grade students whose tests showed they are at least proficient increased to 72 percent from 69 percent, while fourth-grade proficient reading scores decreased slightly from 70 percent to 68 percent. Overall, the percentage of third-grade students who met the criteria for the Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA), which plays a role in determining if a third-grader needs intensive reading remediation before advancing to fourth grade, has shown a modest increase from 83 percent in 2014 and 85 percent in 2015 to 88 percent in 2016.

Fifth-grade students, who were the first third-grade group to study under RSA, saw an increase of 9 percent of students at or above the proficient mark.

Math scores for grades 3-8 increased or remained steady in all grades except fourth, which decreased from 72 percent in 2015 to 69 percent in 2016, and sixth, which saw a slight drop from 67 percent in 2015 to 66 percent in 2016.

Third grade demonstrated the largest improvement in statewide math tests, jumping from 62 percent passing in 2015 to 66 percent passing in 2016.

Science scores for grades five and eight continue to improve, with 57 percent of students testing proficient or above from 53 percent in 2015 and 51 percent in 2014. Eighth-grade proficiency scores also rose, with 55 percent of students testing proficient or above in 2016 from 52 percent in 2015 and 50 percent in 2014.

“The workplace is increasingly reliant on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills, and it is our responsibility to prepare our schoolchildren for these fields,” Hofmeister said. “Math is a universal language. Our students must be fluent and able to think in that language to be truly competitive and ready for future academic studies and STEM career opportunities. We must remember as a state that academic math and reading standards have changed repeatedly in recent years. It is now time for stability in classrooms and the resources needed to focus on learning for the long run. These scores indicate a positive step forward, but much more remains to be done.”

The 2016-2017 school year is a transition year for both student assessments and school accountability under the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and House Bill 3218, which eliminated End-of-Instruction exams (EOIs), Oklahoma Core Curriculum Tests (OCCTs) as currently given and all non-federally required tests except U.S. history in high school.

The transition-year assessments will test students in English Language Arts and Mathematics each year in grades 3-8 and once in grade 10; Science in grades 5, 8 and 10; and U.S. History once in grades 9-12. A college- and career-ready assessment will also be included. Transition-year and 2017-2018 assessments will align to the new Oklahoma Academic Standards.

The State Department of Education is in the process of vetting new, high-quality assessments in compliance with ESSA and HB 3218 through a large task force and a team of technical experts in measurement science. Assessments for 2017-2018 must provide a measure of comparability to other states and produce statistically reliable and accurate information.