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February 27, 2014

Barresi: No changes in near future

ENID, Okla. — Despite an at-times-contentious objection to state policies, such as the Reading Sufficiency Act, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi does not look for anything to change in the near future.

The Reading Sufficiency Act has been state law for 17 years, said Barresi, who was in Enid Thursday for a meeting of the Oklahoma State Board of Education.

“What we’ve done is put a date certain on that,” she said.

Barresi said reading is a skill that, if not developed, will make it harder and harder for students to succeed later.

She said studies show if kids who can’t read satisfactorily are retained, their greatest growth will happen during the first year after retention.

“It’s crueler to send them on and expect them to perform,” Barresi said.

This is the first year the state’s third-graders will be retained if they do not pass a reading test with a satisfactory score, but Barresi said the law is not that simple.

“The biggest myth about this law is that it’s one test on one day,” Barresi said.

The law allows for six exemptions:

• English Language Learners who have had less than two years of instruction in English.

• Students with disabilities, whose Individualized Education Program indicates they are to be assessed with the Oklahoma Alternate Assessment Program.

• Students who demonstrate an acceptable level of performance on an alternative standardized reading test.

• Students with a teacher-developed portfolio showing they can read on grade level.

• Students with disabilities who take the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Tests and have an IEP that states they have received intense remediation in reading for more than two years, but who still demonstrate deficiency in reading and were previously retained one year.

• Students who have received intensive remediation in reading for two or more years, but who still demonstrate deficiency in reading and have been retained for a total of two years.

As for the amount of required testing students undergo — another area of criticism for the Oklahoma Department of Education — Barresi said estimates of how long students spend testing often are not accurate.

Tricia Pemberton, assistant director of communications for OSDE, provided data on the time students are required to test.

• Grades 5 and 8 writing, approximately 90 minutes.

• Grades 3, 4 and 5 mathematics, 85-105 minutes.

• Grades 3, 4 and 5 reading, approximately 120-140 minutes.

• Grade 5 science or social studies, 105-125 minutes.

• Grades 6, 7 and 8 mathematics, 80-100 minutes.

• Grades 6, 7 and 8 reading, 110-125 minutes.

• Grades 7 geography, 90-110 minutes.

• Grade 8 science or U.S. history, 90-110 minutes.

• EOI algebra I, algebra II, geometry, biology I or U.S. history, 140 minutes each.

• EOI English II, 215 minutes.

• EOI English III, 280 minutes.

Barresi said her budget request for the next fiscal year seeks a $59 million increase, and that the Oklahoma State Board of Education on Thursday morning approved a supplemental request for another $6.5 million for the current fiscal year, mainly to cover addition costs associated with the Affordable Care Act.

Barresi also said she does not expect the state’s A-F school report card formula to be changed.

“Change is hard,” said Barresi, who is running for re-election. “My primary opposition is focused on making adults happy.”

Her own focus, Barresi said, is making education better for children.

“Not everybody agrees with what we’re doing, but there are a lot who do,” Barresi said.

She is facing Joy Hofmeister for the Republican nomination.

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