January 20, 2018


Dear Families,

This week, your student will be participating in their first round of O.A.K.S. testing. O.A.K.S. stands for Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. For families of fourth and fifth graders, the drill is pretty familiar. For the families of third graders, this might be new if your third grader is the oldest in your family. Here’s how O.A.K.S. works:

  • Over the course of this week, students will take a test in reading and math. 5th graders will be taking an additional test in the area of science.
  • Each test has between 40 and 55 problems.
  • All problems are multiple choice.
  • It is not a timed test. Students can take as long as they want.

I like to use the phrase “It is what it is” when referring to standardized testing. It tests students on their ability to solve particular math problems and demonstrate their knowledge of concepts, and read for information. It’s no different than what we require students to do in school. However, because it’s in a different form, it truly can’t hurt for students to practice some test-taking skills. Within the past four weeks, we’ve done some different types of skill practice for taking standardized tests. Here’s a summary of what we’ve studied:


  • Students have the option of printing out passages instead of just reading them on the computer. They can use highlighters, pen, and/or pencils to take notes and jot down ideas.
  • It always helps to read the problems first so you know what information you’re looking for. Read the text second, then reread the problems.
  • Two problems are probably bogus, so always try to narrow it down to two.
  • After you’ve done that and you truly don’t know the answer, take your best guess.


  • Solve your work on a separate piece of paper. Don’t just guess. Solve it on paper, just like you would in math class.
  • If the answer you got is not one of the options, do it again, don’t just guess.
  • You may use any math manipulatives you need to like a ruler, dice, polygons, protractor, and calculator to help you.
  • Two problems are probably bogus, so always try to narrow it down to two.
  • Check your work!

With both the tests, it’s extremely important to take your time. Again, the test is not timed.

O.A.K.S. isn’t the end-all-be-all of your child’s school year. Some students claim they will not be promoted to the next grade if they don’t pass. Well, that’s a myth. Despite the fact that it isn’t the end-all-be-all, it’s still really important that your child take this test seriously, take their time, and put in their best effort. Thanks for your help in reinforcing these reminders at home. As always, please email me with any questions.

~Mr. B

Dan Barnard About Dan Barnard

Dan Barnard hails from the Green Mountain State of Vermont where he grew up skiing, biking, and exploring the nooks and crannies of the woods. He learned to drive on his parents' station wagons, learned to ski at Smugglers' Notch, and developed a love for traveling by participating in school trips to France and New York City. He worked in many jobs ranging from ski instructing to babysitting to an after-school program that helped him decide he wanted to be a teacher.

He enrolled in Wheelock College in Boston, Massachusetts and earned a BA in Humanities with a focus on history and a concentration in Elementary Education. After working for two years in a suburban Boston community as a fifth grade teacher, he decided to move west to discover the beauty and bounty of Oregon. He worked for four years as a third, fourth, fifth, and sixth grade teacher in Mosier, Oregon. While working in Mosier he enrolled in graduate school at Portland State University and earned a MS in Curriculum and Instruction from Portland State University.