Editorial: Of course, student test scores are down, so don’t deprive them of resources | Editorial

No one should be surprised that spring reading test scores for elementary school students in Tulsa Public Schools are lagging.

Every educator and expert has predicted that academic success will be delayed after the pandemic shutdowns of almost 2 years. Parents should have seen it coming too.

That doesn’t mean all is lost. This means that our elected officials and policy makers must redouble their efforts to invest in resources for our students.

To the credit of TPS officials, the scores were discussed at a public school board meeting. The district has used MAP growth testing for many years as an internal tool for tracking students’ academic development. These are computer-based tests given periodically during the school year.

This particular reading test comes from the same company with unique features suitable for younger kids.

Since these are not high-stakes tests required by the state, TPS officials may resist releasing the results. Instead, they are transparent about the results and what it means for the district. These are district-level scores broken down by quadrant, race, gender, individualized education program status, and English learner status.

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School board members got a glimpse of K-3 reading scores at last week’s meeting.

About 44.4% of third-grade students demonstrated grade-appropriate foundational skills. The situation worsened in the lower grades, with 40.8% of kindergarten students, 22.1% of second graders and 12.4% of first graders meeting the benchmark.

Among younger students, many missed an experience in an early childhood program. Research over at least 20 years—including extensive data on TPS students—shows that these early programs produce great gains in preparing children for school.

Other research has found that once students start late, they generally struggle to catch up. But, they can if the right resources are available.

Additionally, schools in the district are educating students who left during the pandemic and are now returning. Some of these students enrolled in other programs, such as online charter schools, or simply stopped showing up for class.

This effect will appear in all test results published over the next two years.

Right now, public education is under attack largely from a culture war perspective. We bet that these results will be added ammunition.

Some lawmakers try to starve public schools through voucher programs and clever funding mechanisms that do nothing to reduce class sizes or expand student programs. This group castigates public schools for their poor results after having failed them.

Expected lower test results can be reversed with the right investments. We appreciate TPS officials for being open to the challenges students face. As a community, we can’t fix what we don’t know.

Now the community has to show that they are willing to do something about it.

About Stuart M. McFarland

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