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Do Ohio Students Take Too Many Tests?

Michael Nutter

May 29, 2019

The proposed Testing Reduction Act may change the way Ohio schools operate, freeing up valuable instructional time.

In almost every state in the country, standardized testing is a hot-button issue. Are too many tests burning out teachers and students alike, squelching creativity and free thought in the process? Or is a lack of testing causing state boards of education to fail to hold school districts accountable to critical standards, letting at-risk students slip further behind their peers?

Though many are striving to, no state has managed to strike exactly the right standardized testing balance — or at least not one that quells every testing critic. Ohio is no exception to the rule, as the state has continuously adjusted its standardized testing policies in an attempt to secure better results and more satisfied students.

In his 2017 testimony to the Ohio Senate Education Committee, Ohio Department of Education Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria explained, “While strong accountability and other policy initiatives are important to ensure each student receives a quality education, there should be a continuous check on the amount of time students spend testing. We have heard our stakeholders, and they are clear: testing is an issue. It is taking too much time away from the teaching and learning process.”

Two years later, we’re seeing evidence that DeMaria’s message was heard. Via the recent introduction of House Bill 239, Ohio lawmakers are taking action to curb what many Ohio residents view as excessive testing.

The Great Ohio Testing Debate

Ohio’s first attempt at statewide standardized testing took the form of Ninth Grade Proficiency Tests, which were rolled out in 1990. Shortly thereafter, standardized tests were also implemented in fourth, sixth, and twelfth grades. These exams measured students’ competencies in reading, writing, math, science, and citizenship, and introduced some much-needed accountability and transparency for school districts.

Through the mid-1990s and into the early 2000s, Ohio remained bullish on standardized testing, particularly in the wake of the 2005 No Child Left Behind Act. For instance, in 2012, Ohio officially began factoring students’ standardized test scores into teacher evaluations. Over the span of the past three decades, testing has become an integral part of the Ohio public education system — and some believe it’s time to turn back the clock.

This anti-testing sentiment has only grown stronger in the last few years, particularly after a 2015 survey revealed that the average Ohio student spends an estimated 215 hours between kindergarten and graduation taking state and district tests — and far, far more hours preparing for them. Students, teachers, and families have consistently characterized Ohio’s testing regime as a “testing problem” — a problem the state legislature is finally attempting to address with H.B. 239.

Breaking Down H.B. 239

Introduced by Representatives Gayle Manning (R) and Erica Crawley (D), House Bill 239 proposes scaling back Ohio’s state testing to the minimum level permitted by federal law. This will entail removing four high school end-of-course exams — those for geometry, English language arts, American history, and American government — and will leave only the requisite 17.

Entitled the Testing Reduction Act, the bill also includes a stipulation that will require local school districts to form working groups to study district-level testing and make recommendations for testing reductions. Each group will be made up of a district superintendent, a testing administrator, three principals, three classroom teachers, and three parents, ensuring all interests are represented.

Should the legislation pass, teachers will be able to reclaim valuable instructional time. However, to fully take advantage of this newly-acquired time, teachers will need access to adequate supplies and extensive professional development programs. Most teachers will readily admit that teaching to a standardized test is a radically different enterprise than teaching free of rigid guidelines, and (re)learning how to do the latter effectively will require ongoing professional instruction.

Of course, supplies and robust professional development both require ample resources — resources districts can secure by adopting Vinson’s CheckPoint EMIS Platform. CheckPoint doesn’t just make reporting quick and easy; it also makes it far more accurate, ensuring school districts receive all the funding to which they’re entitled. Contact Vinson today to learn more about how CheckPoint can help your district prepare for a post-H.B. 239 era.

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