VANDALIA —Ohio’s legislators have heard parents and educators loud and clear, and as a result Ohio’s students will no longer be tested with the unpopular PARCC assessments.
A provision in the state budget signed by Governor John Kasich prohibited any spending on assessments by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), a consortium of what is now just 11 states. That number is down from 25 states in 2011.
Vandalia-Butler City Schools Superintendent Bradley Neavin applauded the move, but said the state needs to go even further in lifting mandates for high performing districts.
“Any steps legislators take to relieve the burdensome mandates on schools are welcomed,” said Neavin. “The testing model implemented last year was a total failure. The model forced us to divert our limited financial resources to a program that required large blocks of precious academic time and technology.”
State Senator Peggy Lehner, a Kettering Republican who chairs the Senate Education Committee, said that the volume of complaints about PARCC assessments was overwhelming and focused on the time students spent taking the tests, the amount of district resources needed to administer the tests, and technological glitches.
“The reason we recommended the change had nothing to do with the content of the exams,” said Lehner.
Neavin expressed concern about not receiving the test data in a timely fashion and said that the date from assessments conducted last school year won’t be available until this coming fall – if at all.
“We have seen no academic benefit to our students from these tests,” said Neavin. “Months after testing was completed, we have no student performance data to guide us in our instructional practices.”
Neavin has consistently said that the goal of testing should be to assess student needs and then use that to drive instruction. He believes the current state testing regimen is intended solely to rank schools and teachers and not designed to inform instruction.
“It seems like these recommendations still fail to answer the questions that are being raised by parents and educators, and that is ‘just what is the real purpose of this testing,’ Neavin said in January when the Ohio Department of Education recommended reducing testing. “The larger paradigm in the state is that, in my opinion, testing is all about ranking and sorting schools.”
The state spent $26 million and educators spent four years to create the math and English tests for students. After dumping the standardized tests, the state will now have months to work with American Institutes for Research (AIR) on new tests for next year or risk losing millions in federal funding.
Lehner said the benefit of the AIR assessments are that they are shorter and can be taken in a single testing window.
“The AIR will not be as disruptive,” she said.
Lehner expressed concerns about implementing another testing regimen, but said that her support of the controversial Common Core standards has not wavered.
“We hope to stick with the same tests for a long period of time,” said Lehner. “It takes a while to adjust to new tests, and there will always be some problems implementing new tests. We are looking for as much stability as possible which is why I don’t want to get rid of Common Core.”
Neavin said Vandalia-Butler Schools would like to see less state mandates and more local control – a sentiment shared by the Board of Education. That view was expressed clearly when the Board unanimously passed A Resolution to Take Back Local Control in April.
“This district has a long and proud history of instructing our students using best practices, practices grounded in research,” said Neavin. “We hope the state will pause to really consider the intent of all mandates and allow districts to use best practices to enhance the educational environment, helping students to achieve the highest standards possible.”Reach Darrell Wacker at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.