Businesses will not sit around waiting for the state Department of Education to explain the intricacies of its testing methods before they make a decision on whether or not to relocate or expand in Oklahoma.
Business leaders are far more likely to simply compare nationally standardized test scores of Oklahoma students to those of students from other states. And students in Oklahoma are not scoring as well as students from other states on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test, despite the glowing reports of academic progress state education officials have charted using a multitude of internal assessment measures.
"It's not that we're not telling the truth, it's just how you collect and report the information," said Janet Barresi, a dentist appointed by the House speaker to the Achieving Classroom Excellence II Task Force at the task force's meeting on Thursday.
The task force was created by Senate Bill 921 during the 2007 legislative session by lawmakers who wanted to know why fourth- and eighth-grade students in Oklahoma showed higher scores in reading and math on the Oklahoma State Testing Program than they did on the reading and math portions of the national NAEP assessment. The discrepancy raised questions as to whether state testing methods inflated students' scores by using less rigorous standards.
The task force is composed of both education and business leaders, who were assigned the task of comparing state testing standards with the national standards and those of other states and to assess the feasibility of realigning state performance level standards to match NAEP standards.
Susan Harris, vice president of the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce, said NAEP test scores are perceived by national business leaders as an important indicator of the quality of state schools, though education experts said the NAEP scores do not provide a clear picture of students' achievement levels. Even the National Assessment Governing Board urges caution in comparing NAEP scores between states, the results of which may be impacted by population shifts, sampling procedures and other factors.
The NAEP tests only a sampling of about 2,500 students from each state to collect a snapshot of students' abilities. …