Stillwater public schools are prepared to step up to the challenge of higher proficiency standards on state assessments for math and reading, an administrator says.

The State Board of Education voted Wednesday to increase student proficiency standards for all state assessments in math and reading for grades three through eight. Kristy Ehlers, assistant superintendent for educational services, said the change will help Stillwater strive to improve.

“I think it’s good for our students and it’s good for our teachers to make sure that we’re competitive in today’s world,” Ehlers said. “If that means increasing standards then, by all means, let’s make sure our students are ready for the work force and beyond.”

Ehlers said the change will force teachers to evaluate what they are teaching, but the change shouldn’t have a drastic effect on what teachers are doing because they already do a great job of teaching beyond testing standards, Ehlers contends.

“I think the teachers will do a great job preparing students,” Ehlers said. “We will step up to the challenge.”

The new standards are designed to move proficiency levels closer to standards for the National Assessment of Educational Progress and ensure that standards are consistent for all grades. Standards will affect individual and district test results for state tests that students took in the spring, according to a statement released by State Superintendent Sandy Garrett.

“The need to make certain that proficiency standards were consistent, that the bar was raised on the standards, and that we aligned to NAEP in the interest of competitiveness made it necessary for us to ask for new, robust standard-setting recommendations for those exams,” Garrett said.

State reading and math tests for grades three to eight were phased in between 2001 and 2006, so standards of proficiency for some grades were set years before others.

An assessment report for the 2007-2008 academic year showed that Stillwater schools had received higher marks on the academic performance index — a measurement based largely on state test scores — during each of the past four years.

Stillwater schools had API scores that ranged in the low 1,300s and high 1,400s out of 1,500 possible.

When the report was presented at the November Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Ann Caine said she was proud of the students and pleased with the scores, but she would like the district to obtain perfect API scores, which would generate additional state funding.

“We have very good teachers and so the expectation is that our scores are going to be the best in the state,” Caine said in November. “We’re going to keep working so that they are the best in the state.”

Ehlers said that is still a goal for the district, and teachers, administrators and staff strive to improve student goals every year.

Garrett said student proficiency rates across the state would likely drop significantly because of the new standards, but the higher standards will help Oklahoma students to keep up with national standards.

“The Board and I believe this action was necessary to ensure Oklahoma students are competitive nationally and internationally and that our schools continue to move forward,” Garrett’s statement said.

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