High stakes tests; Ohio changes test providers
CINCINNATI (Jeff Hirsh) -- It's back to school Wednesday, August 19, for 33,000 students in the Cincinnati Public School system. Other districts were either back already, or returning soon. There was some uncertainty 2015, because of yet another change in Ohio's statewide standardized tests. Rachel Tapp delivered books after joining her fellow teachers for a day-before-school-starts meeting about new policies at Oyler School. Others sorted supplies while Tapp got her seventh and eighth grade classroom ready. But there was a problem, "It's really frustrating as a teacher because we want to enter day one prepared." The problem was with yet another change in standardized testing, "The standardized test has become a part of every kid's life in this school," said Tapp. In every public school, for that matter. School report cards have been based largely on how students do on those tests. Low school ratings could ultimately cost teachers and principals their jobs. But the state of Ohio was not making it any easier.Superintendent of Cincinnati Public, Mary Ronan, said, "These are three different tests in three different years that look completely different, the format's different." From statewide achievement tests, to something called the P.A.R.C.C. test and now the upcoming year to a different test provider called A.I.R. Critics said P.A.R.C.C. tested too far too many hours and had a sometimes baffling format. So Governor John Kasich and the legislature dropped out of the multi-state P.A.R.C.C. testing consortium which meant money down the drain. The P.A.R.C.C. testing cost $26 million. The state pulled the plug and said they're not going to fund it. In its place, for English and math, tests from A.I.R: the American Institutes for Research. One good thing, teachers like Rachel Tapp said there will now be far fewer hours of standardized testing; around three hours instead of the 10 or 11 with P.A.R.C.C. Tapp said too much testing simply backfires and hurts learning, "When it happens day after day of testing, it disrupts our school culture. It gets to everyone." What teachers like Tapp are waiting for now is guidance from the state about the A.I.R. exams. With so much at stake a school's reputation, employee jobs and of course, student learning, getting that guidance is critical step by step. Students will only take one round of standardized tests during the 2015-2016 school year. It was two rounds in the 2014-2015 school year. As for the new tests, the Ohio Department of Education said a committee of teachers across the state will develop questions. They'll be put together by December with practice exams made available as soon as possible.