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Editorial: Of course student test scores are down, so don't starve them of resources

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TPS Education Service Center (copy)

Tulsa Public Schools Board is making changes to concentrate more on student outcomes each month while keeping public comments and information open.

No one should be surprised the reading spring test scores of Tulsa Public Schools elementary students are lagging.

Every educator and expert predicted that education achievement will be delayed after the nearly 2-year pandemic lockdowns. Parents should have seen this coming as well.

That doesn’t mean all is lost. It means that our elected officials and policymakers must double down on investing in resources for our students.

To the credit of TPS officials, the scores were discussed in an open school board meeting. The district has used MAP Growth testing for many years as an internal tracker of student academic development. These are computer-adapted tests given periodically during the school year.

This particular reading test is from the same company with unique features geared to younger ages.

Because these are not a state-required, high-stakes tests, TPS officials could resist releasing the results. Instead, they are being transparent about the results and what that means for the district. These are district-level scores broken down by quadrant, race, gender, Individualize Education Program status and English Language Learner status.

School board members got a look at the kindergarten through third grade reading scores at last week’s meeting.

About 44.4% of third grade students showed grade-level appropriate foundational skills. It got worse in the lower grades with 40.8% of kindergartners, 22.1% of second grade students and 12.4% of first grade students reaching the benchmark.

With the younger students, many missed out on an experience in an early childhood program. Research for at least 20 years — including a lot of data on TPS students — shows those early programs produce great gains in preparing children for school.

Other research found that once students start behind, they typically have a hard time catching up. But, they can if the right resources are available.

In addition, schools throughout the district are educating students who left during the pandemic and are now returning. Some of those students enrolled in other programs, such as online charter schools, or they simply stopped showing up for classes.

That effect will appear in all test results emerging in the next two years.

Right now, public education is been under attack largely from the cultural war perspective. Good bet these results will be added ammunition.

Some lawmakers are attempting to starve public schools through voucher schemes and crafty funding mechanisms that do nothing to decrease class sizes or grow student programs. This group blasts public schools for low achievement after setting them up for failure.

The expected lower test results can be turned around with the right investments. We appreciate TPS officials for their openness about challenges students are facing. As a community, we cannot fix what we don’t know.

Now, the community must show it has the will to do something about it.


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