Lawmakers, PARCC officials respond to test criticism

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By TACHIEKA M. WILLIAMS
and CHRISTINA YOUNG
TheNewsOutlet.org

When Common Core assessment testing began in Ohio, so did the outcry.

Parents across the state opted their children out of testing, despite a claim by the Ohio Department of Education saying, “There is no law that allows a parent or student to opt out of state testing and there is no state test opt-out procedure or form.”

A Badass Teachers Association chapter was started in Cleveland. The national group opposes standardized tests of any kind and promotes teacher autonomy. They also promote the opting out movement.

Lawmakers, PARCC officials respond to test criticism

Lawmakers, PARCC officials respond to test criticism

“We’re going to try and give condensed information and leave people with more answers than questions,” said Kelly Braun, creative director of national BATs and organizer of the Ohio chapter. “The PARCC testing is part of a large, corporatist movement to privatize public schools.”

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career tests are administered by PearsonAccess, a private company.

Despite the name, the tests begin in third grade and continue through high school. In 2014-15, Ohio was one of 11 states that administered PARCC tests this year. Tests were given in December, and then again in the spring in two testing periods, starting in February and ending in May.

The outcry was so strong, state legislators listened.

In April, Rep. Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield, introduced House Bill 138, which asks the Ohio Department of Education to apply for a waiver from federal testing and allow school districts to opt out of the end-of-year portion of the PARCC tests.

“We are taking eight weeks – almost an entire quarter of the school year – to see if students are learning something in the other three-quarters of the school year,” said Koehler. “I can’t imagine what would happen if I stood before you today and suggested that students could afford eight weeks of calamity days and still have time to learn everything they need to learn in a typical school year,” said Koehler, during testimony April 21 to the House Education Committee.

Meanwhile, House Bill 74 was approved May 13 by a vote of 92-1 to eliminate PARCC tests and limit state achievement tests to no more than three hours a year. That bill is now being considered in the Senate.

Legislators weren’t the only ones listening to the growing criticism.

The PARCC governing board voted May 20 to shorten the tests and give the tests in a 30-day window near the end of the school year. They also reduced testing hours, but not as much as called for in HB 74. On average, third-grade students would see testing times decrease to 9.75 hours to 8.25, and high-school students from 11.1 hours to 9.7.

However, these changes did meet two of the recommendations made by a senate advisory committee in May.

“(Members) came together from all over the state with very diverse opinions about how Ohio should proceed with testing and basically ended up providing us with near unanimous recommendations,” said Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, the committee chair.

Other recommendations:

  • Make results available sooner,
  • Allow schools to choose online or pencil/paper testing,
  • Create a single technology platform for 2016 tests,
  • Communicate test plans clearly to parents, teachers and others,
  • Improve accommodations for Individual Education Plan students and provide more training for intervention specialists,
  • Replace test vendors who don’t make changes by the next school year.

The committee also suggested eliminating penalties for students, teachers and schools based on 2014-15 testing.

In March a part of that was taken care of when, Gov. John Kasich signed House Bill 7, the “Safe Harbor” bill, which protected students from being penalized by their scores during the first year of testing.

Katherine Montgomery contributed to this report.

TheNewsOutlet.org is a collaborative effort among the Youngstown State University journalism program, The University of Akron and The University of Cincinnati, and professional media outlets including, WYSU-FM Radio and The Vindicator (Youngstown), The Beacon Journal and Rubber City Radio (Akron).