State Legislature Responds To Testing Concerns
A Guest Column by State Senator Bill Beagle
March 06, 2015
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Testing in Ohio schools has been a major topic of discussion over the last few months at the Ohio Senate and in our community.   I have heard from many parents, teachers, counselors and school superintendents about the new state tests being administered this year and the strain it has placed on our students and educators. The new tests are longer and more involved than the assessments Ohio has used in the past.

The new English language arts and math assessments were designed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).  The American Institute for Research (AIR) developed the new assessments for science and social studies.  The goal of the new assessments is to ensure students are better prepared for their next step after high school – whether it is college, technical training, military service or a career. 
This week the Ohio Senate unanimously passed House Bill 7, sponsored by Representative Jim Buchy from Greenville, clarifying that for this school year no student test scores will be used for student promotion or retention purposes. It is expected that initially student scores will not be as high as they have been on past state assessments. The Third Grade Reading Guarantee is exempt from this legislation because this year Ohio is continuing to use the Ohio Achievement Assessment for third grade reading and not the new tests.   In response to parents that have opted their children out of the state tests, the Senate amended the bill to protect schools from losing any state aid for these students.
The General Assembly passed House Bill 487 last year which included a “safe harbor” that allows school boards to enter into a memorandum of understanding with teachers stating that scores on this year’s tests will not be utilized as an indicator of student growth on teacher evaluations for next year.  The Senate amended that same bill to require the State  Superintendent to review Ohio’s state assessments and submit a report to the legislature recommending ways to reasonably reduce the number and duration of state assessments.
Some of those recommendations have been included in Senate Bill 3, currently being considered in the Senate.  Under this bill, all schools would no longer be required to administer the 1st and 2nd grade math diagnostic test, or the writing diagnostic required for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade. The legislation would also eliminate the fall 3rd grade reading test which would save nearly 5 hours of testing time, significantly reducing the state testing burden for our youngest pupils.
Though some state testing is the result of the Federal mandates of No Child Left Behind, Senate Bill 3 would limit the amount of cumulative time spent on state assessments to 2 percent of the school year and the amount of time on practice tests to 1 percent of the school year.  However, a school board will have the option to pass a resolution at a local meeting indicating that they intend to exceed the 1 percent limitation if they believe the time is insufficient
This week the Ohio Senate also created an Advisory Committee on Testing.  Appointed teachers, superintendents, curriculum specialists, elected State School Board members and senators will review the testing requirements and concerns raised by parents and educators to determine what changes may be needed in the best interest of students.  Initial recommendations are expected this spring.
Nothing is more important than our children’s education. Passions run high on all sides of the issue of standardized testing as we strive for a system that is both fair and effective. Our goal is to improve student competitiveness and ensure high quality instruction while maintaining local control and avoiding unnecessary pressure on our children and their teachers. Ohio’s prior system allowed students to be deemed “proficient” by answering only one out of three questions correct.  Now we will examine the current system to see if it’s meeting the needs of our kids. Parent input on this topic has been invaluable.  This is how the system is supposed to work: legislators respond to citizen input.  Not everyone will agree, but everyone can be heard.

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