The Norman Transcript

November 20, 2012

Board of Education examines testing, budget

By Caitlin Schudalla
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Monday evening’s Board of Education meeting covered several notable topics, including award presentations, budget approval and, most predominant, an intensive hour-long presentation on the district’s PSAT, SAT and Advanced Placement exam data presented by College Board K-12 Education Manager Melany Ascher.

Data comparing scores over the past five years showed a steady increase in the number of Norman high school students choosing to take AP exams as well as a slow climb in performance, with 764 students taking AP exams during the 2011-2012 school year.

Out of 1,376 tests taken by Norman high school students (an average of approximately two tests per student) during this time, 833 earned a score of 3 out of 5 or higher, a score high enough to exempt students from base-level college courses in most state schools around the country.

Norman high school students also showed a slight but steady decline in PSAT performance, which Assistant Superintendent Shirley Simmons said the district is attempting to address by encouraging students to retake the test.

“We administer the PSAT to our freshman, and in the past, students who wanted to take the test again as sophomores or juniors had to pay the testing fee. This year, we’re using district funds to subsidize students wishing to retake the PSAT,” Simmons said.

Overall, Ascher’s presentation emphasized the importance of practice testing, rigorous coursework and professional development for teachers in helping students graduate “college ready.”

“According to the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, only 20 out of every 100 American high school freshmen will earn a bachelor’s degree within six years of graduating from high school. This is why every student needs rigorous curriculum,” Ascher said.

Board members Linda Sexton and Don Shandy briefly discussed the educational value of beginning college readiness testing as young as seventh grade, with Sexton raising concerns about whether test results reflect test preparedness or actual aptitude in students and all present concluding that earlier “practice” testing should become more common in late middle school.

“I believe there’s educational value in learning to take the test,” Shandy said. “There’s the principle that you learn as you prepare to be tested, there are cadences and structures to certain exams like the Law school exam, and my children have said they found test prep to be very helpful.”

“There are a lot of kids in our district testing poorly on the fifth-grade CRT test because the content is presented differently on the test than how it’s taught in class,” Superintendent Joe Siano said. “I think it’s an unfair approach to testing. It doesn’t give students their best opportunity to show what they know. That’s why we need to find in-school methods to encourage earlier test preparation to students and especially parents.

“We need to drop down the grade level where we begin talking about these things and, therefore, reach more parents.”

For more information on college readiness, test preparation and national data, visit www.collegeboard.org.

Caitlin Schudalla366-3541cschudalla@normantranscript.

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