Equal Educational Opportunity for Hispanic Students in the Oklahoma City Public Schools

Chapter 4

Service Agency Perspective

Community service agencies, by nature of their mission statements, come in contact with students who need ancillary services to improve their quality of life. Both Ruth B. Mazaheri and Wayne Thompson have provided significant program activities for students enrolled in the Oklahoma City public schools.

Ms. Mazaheri, the director of programs for the Latino Community Development Agency, with 17 years of service in community mental health, spoke to the Advisory Committee about local educational issues.[1] The first issue she discussed was the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS). Ms. Mazaheri explained that the purpose of the test is to assess where the students are academically. She suggested to the Committee that in some Oklahoma City schools, the ITBS has become the measure for how well the school is doing.[2] Ms. Mazaheri gave the example of the Columbus Elementary School, which at the time was a candidate for an enterprise school.[3] An enterprise school is allowed to introduce educational innovations with limited supervision by the school district. However, it was the contention of Ms. Mazaheri that Columbus Elementary was a school that exempted a large number of Hispanic students from taking the ITBS.[4] She used information from the school districtís Management Information Services to show that in 1997, 650 students were enrolled at Columbus; 439, or 67 percent, of the students were of Hispanic origin, and 398 of these Hispanic students were eligible to take the Iowa Test.[5] However, only 139 of these 398 Hispanic students took the ITBS.[6] The school district exempted 214, or 49 percent, of Hispanic students from taking the test.[7] Ms. Mazaheri said the school continues this practice of test-taking exemptions. She emphasized that the Columbus Elementary has been represented as one of the leaders with high scores in the Iowa Test but that the reality of the numbers suggests that the Columbus Elementary Schoolís high performance in the Iowa Test is related to the high number of exemptions.[8] She stated that students exempted from taking the test pay the price of not being properly assessed to achieve their academic potential.[9]

Ms. Mazaheri noted the inconsistency within the school districtís elementary schools. Some schools exempt a large number of Hispanic students from taking the ITBS while others exempt a small number of Hispanics and choose to accept the challenge of teaching all students.[10]

[1] Ruth B. Mazaheri, Statement before the Oklahoma Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, community forum, Oklahoma City, Sept. 29, 1998, Transcript, p. 224 (hereafter cited as Transcript).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., p. 225.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid., pp. 225Ė26.

[9] Ibid., p. 226.

[10] Ibid., p. 227.