Northwestern Associate Vice President for Academics Selected to Serve as ELA State Standard Evaluator

December 11, 2020

Dr. James Bell

Dr. James Bell, associate vice president for academics and dean of faculty at Northwestern Oklahoma State University, was recently selected to serve as part of the English Language Arts Standard evaluation team for the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

Prior to his current position, Bell served as the chair for the Northwestern English, foreign language and humanities department. Bell has been an educator for 35 years and worked as a consultant in all phases of large-scale assessment development.

Dr. Bo Hannaford, executive vice president, nominated Bell to serve as an evaluator.

Bell has ample assessment experience including serving as a senior test development specialist for Data Recognition Corporation, 2013-2015. He served as content lead for various high-stake projects with multi-million dollar budgets, coordinated efforts of freelance writers, in-house reviewers and editors, and content specialists to deliver items that adhered to state standards, item specification and style guides, grammatical style manuals, and company protocols within a rigorous scheduling window.

He also facilitated item and data review committees consisting of educators, state department of education personnel, and development partners. He has been a freelance writer, editor, and committee facilitator for state English Language Arts, English Language Learners, and modified ELA proficiency exams, 1992-2013.

He served as a writing consultant to elementary and secondary personnel, conducting workshops and on-site visits related to standardized test development and review, secondary writing center design, the writing process, and authentic analogies for the writing process, 2000-2012. He has also been an Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition Exam grader, 2007-2011.

Bell said he knows how important having clear and usable standards can be.

“For that reason, I was eager to be a part of this process,” Bell said. “Beyond that, I’m a bit of a curriculum geek. While looking at standards and objectives is tedious work, trying to figure out how all of the skills fit together and where there may be gaps brings me great satisfaction.”

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE), this year they have undertaken the Oklahoma Academic Standards for English Language Arts review, as required by Oklahoma state statute, and they recognize their partners in the higher education realm offer insights to affirm or improve the revisions. Therefore, they requested the assistance of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education (OSHRE) in conducting a review of the draft standards concurrent with the public comment period.

The directors of Elementary and Secondary English Language Arts Education called together an Executive Team comprised of PK-20 educators to lead a comprehensive review and revision based upon the following four principles:

  1. Clarity - the extent to which the standards are easily understood and likely to be implemented to their fullest intent to ensure all students have the opportunity to learn and achieve
  2.  Coherence - the extent to which the standards progress meaningfully upon each other, communicating a holistic, consistent vision for English language arts
  3. Purpose - the extent to which the standards speak to the context of the classroom, the reality of students, and the futures our students will have as colleagues, employees and leaders, and citizens
  4.  Assessability - the extent to which the standards might be evaluated to provide insight into student thinking to improve teaching, curriculum, and support structures

Bell divided his review of the October 2020 draft version of the Oklahoma Academic Standards for English Language Arts into two sections. He first made global observations about the standards. Bell said these observations address such things as logical framework, sequencing, and relationships among grade levels. In the second section, he made specific observations about particular standards, strands, or objectives.

“I noted proofing errors where I found them, though I focused primarily on content and sequencing,” Bell said.


Contact for Release
Erin Davis, University Relations Specialist; 580-327-8480

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Phone: (580) 327-1700

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