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Herculean Efforts By Educators To Mitigate PARCC Catastrophe

Ohio's new standardized tests have been criticized on a number of fronts. Questions about them being developmentally appropriate, results not being available for months, the length of time it takes to administer the tests, the implementation costs, and the technology deficiencies and failures.

The Dispatch reported on the latter set of problems, and they appear to have been widespread, and astronomical in number

Pearson, the testing company that created the state’s new Common Core-aligned English/language arts and math exams, has fielded roughly 9,600 phone calls, emails and chats from Ohio districts since testing started on Feb. 16.

Most of the queries — 86 percent — were related to problems with administering the test, including registering students, getting them into online test sessions and responding to test policies and procedures such as make-up testing.
To understand the full extent of the technology problems PARCC faces, those 10,000 calls must be put in context.

First, only 60% of Ohio's schools administered PARCC online, the rest chose to use paper and pencil. We can only assume that those 40% were the least prepared or capable of offering online testing as a solution this year. how many calls would have been made to Pearson if those schools had had to perform their testing online? How many of those 250 or so school districts will be ready next year?

Secondly, many of the problems we addressed in-house by district staff

Some educators think the number of glitches actually is larger. District technology staffers often turned to one another instead of waiting for a response from a help line answered by the state and Pearson.
No doubt the wait times were lengthy given the sheer volume of problems being experienced.

Nor do these numbers reflect the insane amount of effort districts went to in order to try and mitigate problems before they occurred

The transition at Grandview Heights went seamlessly for students, thanks to nearly 1,000 hours of planning and preparation by staff members, said Jamie Lusher, the district’s chief academic officer. The district tested 780 students.
That's over 1 hour per students, a pattern repeated elsewhere
Bexley schools purposely delayed testing by a week so that any glitches found early would be resolved by the time the district’s students logged in for their exams, Ross said. Also, the district’s technology department spent more than 200 hours preparing devices and planning for administration of the tests. Only 332 high-school students took the exam online; the rest used paper and pencil.
Almost 3 hours preparation per student!

It simply shouldn't be a requirement that Herculean efforts be needed in order to avoid an epic catastrophe. how can you have a high stakes system under these conditions
“If you have a classroom with three to five technical issues and you may have to reset the device, that’s not closing it up and starting it back up again,” said Paul Ross, technology director at Bexley schools. “With some of those device issues, you have to reinstall the test application on the fly. We’re talking about a disruption occurring while testing.”

That has to be solved quickly, he said, or students will have to make up the test.
This years' testing results ought to be treated as a test run, it would be grossly unfair to judge educators and schools on the basis of a product that is barely functional.

Thorough and Efficient Clause Saved From Chopping Block

A sub committee of the Ohio Modernization commission voted unanimously to retain the "thorough and efficient system of common schools" clause in the Ohio constitution, and not propose that voters consider removing it. This clause had been the bedrock upon which the Derolph funding case was litigated. It continues to be critical for maintaining a constitutional framework for the state to provide an thorough and efficient education system.

There was a lot of pressure to remove this clause from the constitution, led by the chair of the committee
The phrase in the Ohio Constitution that requires the state to provide an adequate system of public schools would be stricken from the document if the head of a constitutional modernization subcommittee has his way.

Chairman Chad Readler, a Columbus attorney who leads the Constitutional Modernization Commission’s schools and local government committee, wants to remove the phrase “thorough and efficient” from Article VI of the Constitution.

Readler, who is actively involved in the privately run charter school movement, is among 32 Ohio community leaders and legislators looking at ways to modernize the Constitution for recommendations to the legislature. Readler was selected by House leadership to run the subcommittee.
This is a big win for students, and a blow for profiteers and privatizers.

The Ohio Education Association Says Changes to Current Testing Mandates Are Urgently Needed

Ohio Education Association (OEA) President Becky Higgins today urged members of the Ohio Senate Education Committee to reduce the amount of time being spent preparing for and taking tests, and to extend to 3 years a moratorium on high-stakes decisions based on student test scores. A complete copy of her testimony is attached.

Higgins said current testing measures are flawed. “Teachers are beyond frustrated with the increasing amount of time spent on testing and the way it has crowded out time needed to teach and engage students in dynamic ways. They tell me about the anxiety felt by their students and the growing number of parents who are considering having their children ‘opt out’ of tests. There is a fundamental imbalance that needs to be corrected.”

In her testimony, Higgins proposed four steps that policymakers could take to bring about much-needed change:

“First, reduce the amount of time spent on testing,” said Higgins. “There is too much time devoted to testing. It’s crowding out time for teaching and learning, limiting student engagement and narrowing our curriculum. The disproportionate time spent on testing is being felt by students, parents and educators. It’s time to focus more clearly on our students and their needs.”

“Second, address problems with the tests. The transition to the new tests, including PARCC, is producing mixed results at best,” said Higgins. “A myriad of issues have been raised including technology, lack of timely guidance, tests not properly aligned to standards, age appropriateness of tests, insufficient accommodations for special education students and a lack of timely results from the assessment. These problems must be fixed.”

“Third, use the data appropriately to focus on helping students. Timely data from testing should be used to inform instruction, advance student learning and promote the growth of educators in their practice. It is not appropriate to tie high-stakes decisions to testing results,” testified Higgins.

“And finally, allow time to get implementation right. As Ohio makes the transition to new standards and assessments, there needs to be sufficient time to make adjustments. OEA renews its call for policy makers to hit the pause button and extend to 3 years a moratorium on the use of student test scores in measuring student growth, evaluating teacher performance and any adverse consequence on local schools,” said Higgins.

“OEA believes it is important to limit both the time spent on testing and the use of test results to make high-stakes decisions. The current fixation with testing is sucking the oxygen out of our education system. Students, parents and educators are saying enough is enough,” said Higgins.

The Ohio Education Association represents 121,000 teachers, faculty members and support professionals in Ohio's public schools, colleges and universities.

THE SCHOOL FUNDING SQUEEZE

Innovation Ohio has produced a new report that looks at the funding squeeze Ohio's public schools have suffered over the last 4 years. The Innovation Ohio analysis found
1. Over the last ten years, Ohio has been investing up to $3 billion annually in tax cuts for the rich instead of high-quality schools for our students.

2. Since 2011, state aid has dropped below 50 percent forcing local revenue now paying for the majority share of the public education funding mix.

3. When factoring in lost revenue to charter schools, education spending as a share of the budget drops to a historic low of 23 percent.

4. In the 2016-17 budget proposal, the percentage of local school districts that face funding cuts jumps from 51 to 67 percent when subtracting the amount of state aid that goes to charters.

5. In too many cases, state funding to charter schools reduces the amount of the total per-pupil funding available to students in local public schools, even with their local revenue.

The immediate fixes suggested by Innovation Ohio include using a portion of the revenue ($4.5 billion) for income tax cuts to instead increase state aid to schools by $1 billion; reducing the cost of new levies for local taxpayers by reinstating the 12.5 percent property tax rollback; base charter funding on the actual cost to educate a charter-enrolled student; and fund charters directly instead of driving that state aid through local schools districts.
Here's the full report.

IO Analysis the School Funding Squeeze

Video: 3 High School girls take on 6th Grade PARCC practice test

2 seniors and a sophomore from Elyria High School (all on the honors track) take on the practice PARCC test for 6th grade mathematics (PBA). It doesn't go well.

We are taking the practice Math PBA [performance based assessment] PARCC test for sixth grade.

Brooke is in Calculus which is only available on the track of honors math classes meaning during freshman year she started in Geometry, although students can get on the track and double up on math classes for a year and get up to calculus.

I [Megan] took a quarter of calculus but dropped it because I did not need it for college and am taking statistics.

Melanie is in honors classes but is a sophomore, she had more of a fresher memory to middle school math since she’s younger.

This test was hard for ALL three of us.

“I can’t do this,” the girl in the middle says at one point when the test asks students to explain why an answer is wrong.

The girl on the right says she could probably figure out the answers if she had her graphing calculator, but her friend reminds her that 6th graders aren’t allowed to use the more advanced calculators.

“How are 6th graders supposed to take this?” the girl in the middle exclaims.

“I can’t even do this. I’m 12th grade. I’m six years ahead of them!”

The girls complain that with the online test they can’t go back and check their work like they’re able to do with a paper test.

“I feel like I’m going to cry because I don’t know this and I feel so stupid,” says the girl in the middle.

By the time they get to question 11 of 12 on the first section, the girls give up, completely flummoxed by the test, despite their team effort.

When they try to view their scores, they are again frustrated when they discover that they must register for an account to see how they did on the practice test.

“Well, I’m not going to make an account for something I don’t support,” one girl complains (which raises some questions about the motives of this exercise).

Dick Ross - Out of Touch on Testing

Dick Ross, the State Superintendent recently issued a statement saying schools would not lose funding if parents opted their children out of the new state tests (PARCC being one set of them). That's good news, but he also then went on to laud the tests
I know you understand the importance testing plays in an effective education system. Testing shows evidence of student progress. It provides much needed information to classroom teachers and others so they can monitor and improve student learning. Results of these assessments provide teachers perspective on what their students were able to retain and apply long term, allowing for reflection and correction in future school years.
The Trouble is, when it comes to the new state tests, that's just utter nonsense. The results of these tests won't be available for months, long after students have moved on, nor will the results be diagnostic in nature. They are also potentially developmentally inappropriate, with lots of evidence tests are being presented to students at a reading level much higher than the students actually grade.

but if you want to know just how out of touch Dick Ross is, simply look at the avalanche of public comments from the usually meek and mild school administrators.

Worthington City Schools
We believe that the PARCC assessments must change if they are to remain viable. While we acknowledge a common concern with the OAA methodology was that kids were tested on a single day, PARCC has swung the pendulum too far in the other direction. There are far too many testing events. We will suggest to the Ohio legislature that they conduct a review of the assessments to determine specifically whether the total time on task is necessary to accurately assess whether learning has occurred and whether the testing events can be consolidated to minimize disruption to the educational program.

We believe that if this assessment system is to remain in place PARCC must return results in a timely fashion. It is unacceptable to not receive the results of the assessment until well into the next school year – far too late to adjust curriculum, building level plans, or to appropriately differentiate instruction for individual students. While assessments have as a partial goal determining the efficacy of our program in different buildings and for our faculty, their main function must be to provide information about how to maximize learning for every student, and an 8 month delay in receiving the results doesn’t do that.

Benjamin Gibson, Firelands Local Schools
The state needs to take a hard look at the amount of testing and particularly the PARCC assessment. I am confident that you would see major improvements and support by eliminating the PARCC assessment. While I appreciate a single test that measures both student growth and teacher accountability, the PARCC test is full of poor content and developmentally misaligned material. Give us a test that is fair to our children and teachers and I guarantee we can sell it locally.

Tom Dunn, Superintendent of the Miami County Educational Service Center
There is also no debating that there are too many state-mandated tests, that the results from these tests are constantly used inappropriately, that the results, even if meaningful, are so long in coming back to schools that they lose their worth, and that this inappropriate use is dictated by lawmakers who apparently don't know the first thing about how students are educated or how to use test data appropriately. Worse, they apparently don't want to learn given the fact that there is plenty of scientific research that refutes their claim that student test results should be used to evaluate teachers, schools, and districts.

Mark K. Neal, Superintendent Tri-Valley Local School District
While I am not (and never have been) an advocate of the PARCC Testing, Ohio got into this testing debacle with little to no input from local school officials. Therefore, I feel no responsibility to stick my neck out for the Department of Education by defending their decisions. What’s happening now, in my opinion, is that parents have figured out what is being forced upon their children, and the proverbial rubber… is beginning to meet the road. However, it is not our goal to discourage nor undermine the laws of our governing body.

Dublin City Schools Superintendent Dr Hoadley
All of these assessments require an enormous amount of preparation time on the part of our staff, and cost our district in instructional time for students and in dollars for the materials we must purchase in order to meet the state mandated requirements. No additional funding for Ohio schools accompanies the seemingly never-ending stream of state required tests. More assessments are being moved to an on-line format, requiring upgrades in technology and significant additional cost for many districts in Ohio.

We embrace accountability and realize it is essential to maintain the quality of Ohio schools. However, I ask, what kind of pressure is all this high stakes testing putting on our children? Is the goal of public education to create the best test takers in the world? For our District, the goal of public education is to help students become well-rounded individuals who are prepared for the world of work and higher education. Dublin City Schools works every day to provide our students with world-class instruction and a well-rounded education and to continuously improve in everything we do.

Our students deserve a well-rounded education beyond test scores, and need tools for success that go far beyond the skills they need to perform well on standardized tests. Creativity and innovation, the ability to think critically, communication skills, collaborative work, global awareness, financial literacy, information literacy and more are crucial components of our students’ overall development. These skills play a critical role in getting our students career and college ready. In Dublin City Schools, with the help of our extremely supportive parents and community, we are ready to meet these ongoing challenges in order to ensure our students receive a well-rounded education.

Dr. Keith Kline, Superintendent West Clermont School District
As you know, the testing monster is upon us. I know you have worked diligently to prepare our students despite the ever changing rules and expectations from the State of Ohio. Thank you!

I have attached a letter that I intend to blast out to parents later today. We have seen an uptick in the number of parents asking to opt their child(ren) out of testing. I wanted you to have this information first. In the letter, I am suggesting that parents plan to have their child(ren) take the assessments as schedule and, if they want to give their opinion, they should voice it with their state legislator. I believe we are all seeing the ramifications of this debacle. Kids and staff are stressed, systems don't work and the ODE does not have it together in regards to guidelines. That is a problem for everyone.

Greg Power, Lt. Col. USAF Retired, Superintendent Little Miami Local Schools
As we prepare for the state-wide infrastructure test this Thursday and for the first of two twenty-day test windows beginning in February, our curriculum director, special education director, EMIS coordinator, technology director, principals, assistant principals and teachers are being required to abandon their primary functional roles to prepare for these assessments. These staff members have spent countless hours and will continue to spend countless hours in these preparation activities as we continue to receive ever changing protocol guidance that often contradicts and causes follow-on support requests from your Ohio Department of Education offices. Departmental guidance has certainly been untimely, ever changing, and at certain points unknowable. I believe the unrealistically legislated timelines of implementation for all of these changes cause even more concern. Why would anyone create such a set of circumstances? We certainly will be seeing the "fruits" of this legislative wisdom coming to full fruition in the coming months.

Of added note, our district continues to incur added expenses as we work to meet all of the requirements needed to support this mandated testing without the benefit of any added financial support from the state or federal levels. Our district has spent and will continue to spend dollars on technology to support the online components of this testing, and will most likely add staff to support this assessment framework. The costs associated with all of this are being borne in large part by the local tax payers. These dollars are better spent on other needs to support our students and their learning needs.

It's hard to get more out of touch than this. No wonder the legislature are ignoring him and going ahead with a panel to investigate the problem.
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