Medina County educators favor reducing testing standards for students in grades three to 12 in reaction to a draft plan released by the Ohio Department of Education.
The draft covers implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA. Passed in 2015, it replaced the No Child Left Behind Act.
ESSA standards were devised to provide greater flexibility and decision-making at state and local levels for primary and secondary education.
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Wadsworth Schools Superintendent Andrew Hill is one of 20 administrators of the Akron Area School Superintendents’ Association who recently issued a list of recommendations regarding ESSA plans in Ohio.
Hill is the only superintendent from Medina County in the association, which includes school leaders from Summit, Medina and Portage counties.
“In general, there’s a feeling that the state didn’t utilize as much of the flexibility that the new federal laws allow us to utilize,” Hill said. “One of them is testing.”
According to the state education department’s draft plan, a need was expressed for stability in Ohio’s testing system, as the state has changed tests two times in the last three years.
In Ohio, students in grades three to 12 are required to take 24 end-of-course exams. However, ESSA only requires students to take 17 end-of-course exams.
English/language arts, math, science, reading, writing and social studies are among the end-of-course exams taken at various grade levels. Additional high school end-of-course exams vary depending on the coursework in which students are enrolled.
“We’re almost doubling the amount of assessments that aren’t required by federal (standards), said Buckeye Schools Superintendent Kent Morgan. “That’s a lot more time taken up for tests.”
Hill said he believes the stakeholders’ opinions were not taken into consideration by the state prior to developing the draft plan.
Hill noted that one opportunity would be to allow the ACT or SAT tests to be substitutes for end-of-course exams at the high school levels.
“We feel there is an opportunity for Ohio to look at scaling back some of these assessments that are required each year,” Hill said. “Whether at the level the federals require or somewhere in between, there’s an opportunity there.”
Morgan said he believes testing created by teachers within their curriculum provides better feedback on students’ progress at a particular time.
“These assessments are designed with the purpose to improve (learning),” Morgan said. “Teachers have the information available immediately and use in their lessons the next day or upcoming weeks to identify where students are and how to best address them.”
“The end-of-course data doesn’t come back to teachers until fall when those kids have already moved on,” he said. “In the educational setting, the data we get from the state assessment does not get used to help us identify the direction of our planning to meet the needs of students.”
Similarly, Hill believes tests should focus more on good instruction from teachers to students rather than the end result — for example, report card rankings.
“The over-emphasis of testing required in Ohio … has made the focus of what should be happening in schools switch in a way that’s not good,” Hill said. “It ought to be more about the process.”
School officials said they are encouraging parents and community members to give feedback before final changes are made to the state guidelines in April.
Contact reporter Halee Heironimus at (330) 721-4012 or firstname.lastname@example.org.