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Education should prepare students for life, not tests

BY YOUR NAME Staff Writer Published: October 19, 2012

Regarding “A-to-F grading method questioned” (Tulsa World, Oct. 14): While debating the data, calculations and presentation of the Oklahoma schools report card, the arguments seem to miss the larger point. Proponents claim it will bring accountability and then results. However, using incorrect measures as an incentive yields unintended consequen-ces. The report card mixes process measures (testing) with results measures (outcomes), which undermines good education. Why? The report card weighting incentivizes teachers to teach students how to score well on the Oklahoma state tests.

Schools and teachers spend more effort on test preparation than preparing students for life. Class time is spent practicing test taking. Many students memorize but don't learn the actual information studied. When improving test-taking skills becomes the primary objective, real education suffers. The case for the A-F report card often cited is Florida schools and the “improvements” that followed.

I found two Florida high schools, both with B grades in 2010. One had a 79 percent and the other a 19 percent college remediation rate. That is systemic failure. Report cards may make parents and politicians feel good, but if these students were products, no one would buy them. In Oklahoma we have smart children, but 38 percent of the 2010 graduates required college remediation courses.

To improve education, parents and politicians must focus on education results that matter. Unless we need more test takers, Oklahoma needs to focus on preparing students for life after graduation as the main grade.

Gary Chancellor, Oklahoma City