OLSATs will no longer be used in District 20 middle school placements

September 25, 2013 Denise Romano
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There’s going to be a change in the way gifted and talented students will be placed into middle school in District 20, beginning with current fifth graders who would be advancing in September, 2014.

Going forward, OLSAT test scores – for the past several years a component of assessing whether students should be placed into a gifted and talent program or not — will no longer be counted, according to Community Education Council District 20 President Laurie Windsor.

Windsor explained that gifted and talented students used to be placed in middle school using a composite score comprised of 50 percent of the OLSAT results and 50 percent of the state exams, specifically 25 percent from the state English Language Arts test and 25 percent from the state math test.

It was announced back in June, that from now on, middle school placement will be based solely on state exams: 50 percent ELA and 50 percent math. But Windsor said that this was the way placement was done years ago, before the OLSATs were introduced.

“They changed it when they wanted to use the OLSATs for multiple inputs [when computing test scores] to have another objective test,” Windsor explained. “Parents would say, ‘What if he or she did badly on state exams? What if the kid is a bad test taker? What if they were sick that day?’ The OLSAT was the attempt to add another piece for a kid to get a higher score.”

But over the years, Windsor went on, it became clear that the OLSATs were not the answer, either.

One reason why the OLSATs are no longer used is because families are unaware of the Request for Testing (RFT) process, which is how students are signed up to take the exam, Windsor noted. With the state ELA and math exams, there is no sign-up process required; students take them during class hours.

“Some parents missed it, didn’t know it was happening, found out too late or missed the deadline and couldn’t do it,” Windsor said of the RFT.

In addition, test OLSATs for students to study and practice from were solely available at tutoring or afterschool centers, instead of given out during school hours for prep the way the state tests are, thus giving some students an unfair advantage.

“Some parents didn’t know any better,” Windsor said of the OLSAT practice books.

Another reason for doing away with the OLSATs is that the Department of Education contends that the state exams have become more rigorous.

“It’s a more objective test. The argument is that kids didn’t do as well this year,” Windsor said.

But although some parents of gifted and talented students were angry about the change, Windsor said that there should be no cause for alarm.

“Everybody went down. It doesn’t really matter; it’s all the same decline,” she contended. “The OLSAT just has outlived its purpose. There were lots of scheduling issues.”

“Now the CEC believes that doing this will level the playing field,” Windsor went on. “Now there’s no more going to OLSAT test prep.”

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