Telling an 8 year old"You have to pass a test or stay in the 3rd grade" is High Stakes Testing on steroids. I know the SDE, Janet, Alec, FEE, Jeb and the Boyz all say we have "Good Cause Exemptions" and retention is a last resort but today I am going to have to call BS on "Good Cause".
There are six so called good cause exemptions. So we need to look at all 6 and decide if they are Good Cause or Limited Chance Exemptions.
1. ELL or the student is Limited-English Proficient. Makes sense when you first read it but as with everything at the SDE there is a few additions to the exemption. The student has to be in their 1st or 2nd year of the Language Instruction Plan. Although research shows it takes 5-7 years for language learners to read on grade level we decided the awesome educators in Oklahoma could get it done in 2. In my experience we get most of our language learners in PK and K so they will not get the exemption. So in my opinion this is a "Limited Chance Exemption".
2. OAAP or students who qualify for the alternative assessment. The only issue I have with this exemption is the way the SDE wrote the rules. The words must and and are overused. This would qualify as a "Good Cause Exemption"
3.Alternative Test: If a student scores on above the 45th percentile they get the exemption. They do not have to make a 45 on the test they have to outscore 44% of the third graders who take the test for the exemption. Basically students who scored in the bottom 12% now have to jump to the 45% mark to receive the exemption. This would qualify as "No Chance Exemption".
4.Student Portfolio: How many student would make a 70% or better on 16 assessments (4 for each standard). The passages used for the assessments must average 350 words and be half literacy text and half expository text . The reading or ELA OCCT does not qualify because it does not meet the requirements. I think this is the WOW!! exemption. If by chance a student qualifies for the exemption there is little doubt in my mind they could also score in the 45% on one of the alternative tests. This exemption requires a tremendous amount of work for our teachers. The teachers feel obligated to create these portfolios in case a capable student has a bad day on the OCCT. This would Qualify as a "No Chance Exemption"
5. Students on an IEP or individualized education plan: If an student is on an IEP and has been retained previously, and reading is part of the IEP, and the student must have had at least two years of supplemental reading remediation for 30-45 minutes a day. First of all we are always concerned with labeling a student SPED now we are going retain him to add to his/her label. The remediation plan is a good idea but if a SPED student move to Clinton in the 3rd grade and we have have no records of a remediation plan he/she would have to be retained twice before they could meet this exemption. This would Qualify as a "Limited Chance Exemption."
6. Regular Education Students: If a regular education student has been retained 2 years and has had 2 years of remediation they would qualify for the execption: Retaining any student 2 years can be devastating. Putting an and with the 2 years making a 3rd mandated retention possible is ludicrous. This would Qualify as a "Limited Chance Exemption".
Taking retention out of the hands of teachers, parents, and administrators makes little sense in a state that prides itself with local control. Touting "Good Cause Exemptions" that are not Good Cause is just political rhetoric. Using kids as pawns in political games is unacceptable. I have stated many times the wall the SDE has built between itself and educators harms our kids. It is time for the legislature to step up tear down the wall and do what is right for OKLAHOMA's students