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Oklahoma Cuts Back on High School Testing, Opens Door to ACT, SAT

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Oklahoma has dumped a requirement that students take seven end-of-course tests, and pass four in order to graduate. Instead, it will require students to take a new exam to earn their diplomas.

The new testing regimen is outlined in House Bill 3218, which was signed last month by Gov. Mary Fallin. The law requires the state board of education to issue a request for proposals to build a new assessment system for grades 3-12 that would begin in the 2017-18 school year. 

The new tests must "provide comparability" with the scores of tests in other states, and at the high school level, must "provide a measure of future academic performance," the law says. Students' highest score on the high school test must be included on their transcripts as a signal of competence to future employers and higher education institutions. 

Depending on the availability of funding, Oklahoma may also offer a "nationally recognized high school test" free of charge to all students, the law said. As we've explained, the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced No Child Left Behind, permits states or districts to use a "nationally recognized" high school test such as the ACT or SAT as its test for federal accountability at the high school level.

The language in Oklahoma's law, however, doesn't say the state plans to use a college admissions test as its high school assessment. It says only that the state "may" offer such a test if there's enough money to do so. Half the states now require all students to take either the SAT or ACT, and a dozen use those tests for accountability.

During the 2016-17 school year, Oklahoma high school students will have a reduced testing regimen: They will take exams in English/language arts, math, U.S. history, and science once during high school.

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