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Lynn Ischa/The Plain Dealer

Cleveland Plain Dealer
Superintendents: Cut state tests, end As and Fs on state report cards
By Patrick O'Donnell

CLEVELAND, Ohio - The state should stop grading schools and school districts with A through F grades, while also cutting the amount of state tests and making sure the tests help teachers teach students better, a group of local superintendents says.

In a "white paper" released Monday to state officials, superintendents from Lorain and western Cuyahoga County outlined several changes they say they wish the state had made - but didn't - in its proposed testing and accountability plan under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

The superintendents and other educators noted that residents across Ohio had listed reducing standardized testing as their main hope for the plan in hearings last year. Making state report cards more clear was also a top concern, they said, but the state proposed no changes in either area.

Because the state did not respond to the public's concerns, superintendents from Amherst, Avon, Clearview, Columbia Station, Elyria, Keystone, North Olmsted, Oberlin, Olmsted Falls and the Lorain County Educational Service Center offered their own proposed changes.

Here's a quick look the major ones they want to see before the state makes its plan final:

Testing: The federal government requires states to give 17 tests, mostly in English and math, each year over all 12 grades.

Ohio gives 24. That's too many, the group says, and should be cut back to the federal minimum.

"Each assessment takes approximately three (3) hours of testing time which equates to a loss of 2 days of learning during the school calendar year," the letter reads. "The number of assessments and the time to administer them during a school day is an incredible burden and it has a negative impact on teaching and learning."

The group also wants the company giving the tests - the American Institutes for Research (AIR), for now - to provide results faster and to share test questions with teachers to they can directly tackle areas where students struggle.

The state and AIR have not released any questions from last year's tests to teachers yet, only student scores, because AIR had to borrow questions from other state's tests. Ohio fired its old test provider PARCC in 2015 and AIR had to scramble to put tests together for Ohio.

That delay in providing questions is likely just a one-time issue during the transition to AIR.

Report cards: Ohio grades schools and districts with A through F grades in several areas on state report cards. Superintendents want that changed.

"The "A - F" reporting system is not descriptive nor accurate," they wrote. "It disenfranchises educators and leaves them with little hope."

"ESSA requires a three-tier system and Ohio should abandon the grading system to one that is more descriptive. We recommend: Exceeds the Indicator, Meets the Indicator, Approaching the Indicator, Does Not Meet the Indicator."

Whay do you think of these changes? Tell us below
They also urged a change in the state's "value-added" calculations and grades for how much progress a student makes in a year.

They objected to the "complicated mathematical conversion" in that calculation and urged the state to "keep it simple so that students, parents and educators can understand."

They also objected to the A-F grades for growth, particularly the use of "C" grades for schools and districts that meet expectations.

"People have preconceived notions as what what a "C" represents," they wrote. "While a "C" in Ohio's accountability model may be considered acceptable, for many parents and community members a "C" represents a lack of effort."

Graduation requirements: The group wants a change in the new state graduation requirements that require students to score well on state tests to earn a diploma.

Districts statewide have already complained that these new requirements, which take effect with this year's 11th graders, could block a third of students from graduating.

"We recommend the consideration of an Ohio Graduation Requirement System that is not exclusively reliant upon a student's standardized test performance," they wrote.

Read this and other articles at the Cleveland Plain Dealer


 
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