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

Chapter 5

School District Perspective

The Oklahoma Advisory Committee invited the school superintendent, Marvin Crawford, to address the Committee. However, the school district delegated the task to Dr. Vern Moore, the deputy superintendent.[1]

Dr. Moore provided the vision statement for the Hispanic Student Services unit in the district.[2] The unit’s mission is to provide the opportunity for educational services to all students and ensure that it brings into play the cultural and linguistically diverse students to make sure that they are able to speak English and are given the skills to be successful.[3]

Dr. Moore provided statistics that showed an increasing number of Hispanic students in the district (from 3,622 in 1995 to 4,168 in 1998) who have taken the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS).[4] Likewise there was an increase in the number of students who were exempted from the ITBS testing program during the same timeframe of fall 1995 through spring 1998.[5]

According to Dr. Moore, Oklahoma public schools provide limited-English-proficient (LEP) students with appropriate instruction to enable these students to achieve competency in English in as short a time period as possible.[6] The school district’s objective is to prepare the LEP student to participate successfully in the mainstream classroom. Dr. Moore further said that State guidelines indicate that students should not be in an program more than 4 years. This means that a LEP student may only be exempted from the ITBS during a total of 4 years of enrollment in Oklahoma schools.[7] The school district identifies limited-English-proficient students as:

those youngsters who [were] born in the United States or whose native language is other than English; those individuals who are Native American or Alaska native and who is a native resident of the outlying areas and comes from an environment where a language other than English has had a significant impact on such student’s level of English language proficiency or those students who are migratory whose native language is other than English and comes from an environment where a language other than English is dominant.[8]

According to Dr. Moore, beginning in the 1997–98 school year, all public school districts are required to administer the norm-referenced ITBS to all students in grades 3 and 7 and the criterion-referenced tests to all students in grades 5, 8, and 11.[9] Exemption of students from the administration of these tests will be limited to students whose education is subject to the provisions of an Individualized Education Program.[10] Students may be exempt from participating in the Oklahoma School Testing Program provided they have met certain conditions. One condition, for example, is that the local district shall have on file a record of having notified parents or legal guardians of LEP students of the option of requesting that their child be exempted from participating in the testing program.[11] According to Dr. Moore, the documentation and records of all the school district students who are eligible and are exempted from taking the ITBS are kept on file and readily available for review by any interested party.[12]

During the enrollment years that LEP students are exempted from the Oklahoma School Testing Program, they are required to receive instruction in the regular classroom or in language centers staffed by a teacher and a bilingual assistant.[13] Dr. Moore stated that the recommended classroom ratio is 60 percent LEP students and 40 percent non-LEP students, in grades six through eight. Instructions at these language centers are provided by English as a second language teachers and bilingual assistants who are available for tutorial services in the content area.[14]

On the Oklahoma City public school student dropout issue, Dr. Moore shared with the Advisory Committee information over a 2-year timeframe, school years 1996–97 and 1997–98. The total of student dropouts for 1995–96 was 1,199, which included 72 American Indians, 40 Asian Americans, 488 blacks, 160 Hispanics, and 439 white students. For the 1996–97 school year there was a total of 1,062 dropouts: 57 American Indians, 94 Asian Americans, 356 blacks, 168 Hispanics, and 387 whites.[15]

In addition to dropout figures, Dr. Moore gave information on student suspensions for middle school and high school students. He said that urban school districts are “not necessarily proud of suspension statistics,” and the school district is working to reduce the numbers of suspensions.[16] For elementary and secondary students in the school year 1997–98, American Indians accounted for 200 suspensions; Asian Americans, 46; blacks, 4,100; Hispanics, 1,016; and whites, 1,937 making a total of 7,299 student suspensions in the district.[17]

After giving his presentation, the Oklahoma Advisory Committee members asked Dr. Moore questions about the percentage of Hispanic students who were being exempted from taking the ITBS. He previously had suggested that an increasing number of students taking the ITBS was due to the increasing Hispanic student population and the concomitant decrease in Hispanic students being exempted from testing. Dr. Moore was asked why the district wanted Hispanic parents to sign a waiver to exempt their children from testing without any discussion about the need for a waiver and the benefits derived from such action. His response was that the school really makes an effort to ensure that parents understand the exemption procedures, and the procedures do not go forth until the parents understand what they are signing. The schools conduct home visits and conferences to inform the parents about the exemption procedures.[18] According to Dr. Moore, the alleged pressure put on parents to sign waivers to exempt Hispanic students from the testing has been done without the knowledge of the school officials responsible for conducting the testing.[19] Dr. Moore admitted that this emphasis on parental notification was due to concerns raised by the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights.[20]

[1] Dr. Vern Moore, Statement before the Oklahoma Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, community forum, Oklahoma City, Sept. 29, 1998, Transcript, p. 173. (hereafter cited as Transcript).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., pp. 173–74.

[4] Ibid., p. 174.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid., p. 176.

[8] Ibid., pp. 176–77.

[9] Presentation Paper, Dr. Vern L. Moore, Oklahoma City Public Schools, before the Oklahoma Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Sept. 29, 1998, p. 6 (hereafter cited as Presentation Paper).

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid., p. 7.

[12] Dr. Vern Moore, Transcript, p. 181.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Presentations, Dr. Moore, op. cit., pp. 11–12.

[16] Ibid., pp. 13–14.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Transcript, p. 192.

[19] Transcript, p. 195.

[20] Ibid., p. 193.