State Sen. J.J. Dossett has filed legislation to assure students, parents and educators that the results of a single high-stakes reading test won’t cause children to be held back. Dossett, a former teacher, said when the Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA) was originally approved in 2011, the idea was to use a federally-mandated reading test to determine whether kids could continue to the fourth grade.
“The Reading Sufficiency Act was well-intentioned policy that has caused tremendous stress and anxiety for children, parents and teachers throughout Oklahoma,” said Dossett, D-Owasso. “A single, high-stakes test is a snap-shot that can be greatly skewed by fear and nervousness—you have to look at the child’s performance over that entire year, and the parents and teachers are going to be better judges of that than just going by the results of one test. The exam is required by the federal government, but the state chose to use it to determine which kids got held back in third grade. It was the wrong thing to do and it’s time to make it right.”
Just a few years ago, several states turned to using the high-stakes test to decide whether children should be held back from the fourth grade. But research in recent years shows holding students back can actually cause more harm than good. A 14-year study released last year by Texas A&M shows students held back in elementary school are nearly three times more likely than their peers to drop out of high school.
The RSA was set to kick in during the 2013-2014 school year but the outcry from teachers and parents prompted the Oklahoma Legislature to amend the law, ultimately overriding a governor’s veto to do so. The Legislature has amended RSA three more times since then. Currently, the law allows districts to use screening assessments, reading portfolios and good cause exemptions to enable students to continue to the fourth grade.
“We need to trust our local districts, teachers and parents to work together and address any reading problems without this perception that a single test could cause a child that may actually read at grade level to be held back,” Dossett said. “The federal government requires schools to give this test, and state law gives districts flexibility in how the results are used. But I think it is time to tell Oklahomans plainly that this single test will not decide their child’s future.”