At a time when Oklahoma is receiving criticism for student performance on the ACT as well as a failing grade from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in academic achievement, State Sen. Kathleen Wilcoxson said a push to weaken Gov. Brad Henry’s Achieving Classroom Excellence (ACE) program with alternative testing couldn’t come at a worse time. The majority of the ACE steering committee supported more than 270 examinations to offer students in place of proficiency tests in core subjects.
“The entire idea behind the governor’s ACE program was to make sure all Oklahoma students have a thorough knowledge of math, science, English and history that will enable them to go directly into post-high school education or training without remediation,” said Wilcoxson, R-Oklahoma City.
The lawmaker explained the legislation creating the ACE program did allow for the selection of alternative tests for students who had failed the state exams.
“The intent was for these alternative tests to be of the same content and rigor of exams such as the ACT or advanced placement tests,” Wilcoxson said. “But the recommendation that we allow students to take a test on food preparation or brick masonry instead of history or algebra is totally unacceptable.”
Wilcoxson said Oklahomans should be very concerned after a recent national study gave the state a “D” in education. The new study called “Leaders and Laggards: State Report Cards” by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is highly critical of Oklahoma’s public education in areas ranging from rigor of standards to academic achievement and truth in advertising about student proficiency. The latter two categories received grades of “F.”
“Furthermore, another recent study showed that in the last ten years, Oklahoma students are the only ones in our region to score lower on the ACT,” Wilcoxson said, citing a report from the Southern Regional Education Board comparing Oklahoma scores to other states in the region whose students primarily take the ACT.
“If our goal is to make sure that all Oklahoma students will earn their high school diploma and have the knowledge and skills to be successful in post-high school education and training, then we need to make sure they indeed learn and understand the basic core curriculum necessary for those pursuits. How can a test over cold food preparation tell us that?”
The final determination on the alternative tests will be made by a vote of the state Board of Education.
“I believe in the goal of the ACE program. I believe that these proposed alternative tests would undercut everything we were trying to achieve,” Wilcoxson said. “I hope the Governor and State Superintendent Sandy Garrett will urge the Board to reject the recommendations.”