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2016 Change in Academic Standards Has Oklahoma More in Line With National Benchmarks

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What Oklahoma considers proficient in reading and math now closely tracks to national K–12 standards.

Fourth-grade reading and math and eighth-grade reading standards have gone from what’s barely considered basic to near proficient by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Eighth-grade math standards are even above the NAEP standard for proficiency and are now fifth-most rigorous in the U.S.

"But those expectations are not out of bounds. They are nationally comparable with other states that are top-10 states in academic performance," said State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister.

NAEP's latest comparison of state standards looks at 2017 data. The previous report looked at 2015.

A 2016 overhaul of state academic standards pulled Oklahoma from the bottom quarter of states in 2015 to the top quarter now for how the state compares to NAEP benchmarks.

"That is significant progress. What it means is we believe that Oklahoma kids can compete with any other state in the nation. We believe that Oklahoma students are just as bright, just as capable and have great potential," Hofmeister said.

Actual test scores, however, have not caught up, but Hofmeister said there are reasons to be optimistic.

"We’re in the middle of a teacher shortage. We have just received, now, new funding for classrooms for $7,30 in back-to-back teacher pay raises, nearly $75 million new dollars for classrooms this fall, nearly doubling with $12 million for struggling readers," Hofmeister said.

Hofmeister also said too many Oklahoma kids suffer effects of trauma and poverty, which hurts academic achievement.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.