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Oklahoma to withdraw from testing group

July 2, 2013

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma is backing out of a testing consortium to work with another company to develop its own standardized tests for the 2014-2015 school year, State Superintendent Janet Barresi said this week.

Barresi said the decision to withdraw from the multistate group — called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers — was made after teachers and parents voiced concerns about the extra hours of test taking that would be involved with it.

Barresi said their concerns, along with her own about the technological readiness of the state's public schools and about higher anticipated costs, were her three primary reasons for backing out.

A recent state survey found that only 33 percent of school sites in Oklahoma are technologically prepared for PARCC testing. Oklahoma needs new tests to coincide with its implementation of new curriculum standards, called the Common Core State Standards.

Barresi said the vast majority of technical problems public schools experienced with online testing this spring are proof that Oklahoma does not yet have the capacity for the volume of online testing required for PARCC tests.

She added that many schools don't have the expertise or funds to improve connectivity, increase bandwidth and add enough devices to catch up by 2014-15.

"If we move ahead with this, we are going to be asking the state to drink a milkshake using a cocktail straw," Barresi said. "If you look at what happened with testing this year — kids getting screens frozen, knocked off the test — those were technical issues that were from the districts' end of things.

"(The testing vendor) crashed for two days because of server problems, but almost every bit of the rest of it was due to district issues. I'm not pointing fingers, but it is the reality," she said.

While the costs of PARCC assessments have not yet been made public, Barresi estimates that Oklahoma could save at least $2 million per year by contracting for its own new English, language arts and math exams for grades three through eight and working with its current vendor to align high school end-of-instruction exams to the new curriculum standards.

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