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Oklahoma: Teachers Use Standards for Transition in New Ways

At Anadarko High School in Oklahoma, teachers are getting together to study and think and talk about ACT’s Standards for Transition. They’re using the Standards to help them plan curriculum and decide what should be taught in each subject, building not from the bottom up, with the kindergarten curriculum, but “from the top down.”

Using the Standards for Transition to enhance vertical alignment, teachers at Anadarko began talking to college professors to clarify what university faculty want first-year students to know. Anadarko High School principal Mary Swanson says that her teachers stopped playing “the blame game” (in which high school teachers blame junior high teachers for student deficits and so on) and “have become a full team, and not by anything I’ve done personally, but through the program. They now have lunches together . . . [and] we meet together at all levels, even interstate levels. We learn new ideas from each other that we take back, and each time it seems more important than ever that our teachers continue team support.”

“Whatever it takes . . . as long as it’s legal and moral” has been the motto of these teachers and their school administrators during the first year of Anadarko’s participation in GEAR UP, a program that, in Oklahoma and in three other states—Missouri, South Carolina, and Washington—uses ACT’s EPAS® and the Standards for Transition to prepare low-income and disadvantaged students for higher education.

In Oklahoma the Regents for Higher Education fully fund the use of EXPLORE® for all eighth graders and PLAN® for all tenth graders in the state. Over 83,000 Oklahoma students participated in this program in the 2001–2002 academic year. The coordination of learning that results from the use of these curriculum-based tests, along with use of the Standards for Transition and the standards-based reports, curriculum review worksheets, and instructional support materials that make up the complete Standards for Transition packet, has helped first-year college students in Oklahoma enter four-year postsecondary institutions better prepared and in less need of remediation than college students of years past.

But helping college-bound students perform better wasn’t enough for the educators in Oklahoma; they wanted to help disadvantaged students become better prepared for college success as well. Principal Swanson says she knew that “our population is not going to change. Our economic status of our children is likely to remain the same.”

In order to help students understand how important the EPAS assessments would be to their future, Anadarko educators placed “students on committees to meet with our teachers so that they could get a good understanding of what [this curricular change] was all about and how important their test scores are. We found that if you want other students to know how important test scores are, you let one student tell another student rather than having a teacher tell a student. . . . Our kindergarten and first-grade teachers are no longer saying, ‘Hey, we are getting your kids ready for the first or second grade.’ We are now saying to these students, ‘We are getting you guys ready to go to college.’”

At Durant High School the Standards for Transition are an important tool for learning as well. There, students check their performance against the Standards for Transition and, as a result, understand more clearly the importance of the EPAS program to their educational futures. Teachers, counselors, and administrators at Durant High School use test results and the Standards for Transition to advise students in course planning and to help parents and students become more aware of the value of taking challenging courses.

“When it comes to standards alignment, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel,” says Dolores Mize, assistant vice chancellor of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. “ACT has already done the work. We believe the Standards for Transition provide the framework educators are looking for.”