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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).

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

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.

ODE Backs off Testing Threats

After increasing pressure from parents threatening to opt-out of PARCC testing, the Ohio Department of Education has backed off it's threat to withhold funding for any student who doesn't participate in Ohio's new testing regime.

The state Superitendent, Dick Ross issued this statement to Local School Districts

Colleagues:

Recently, many school districts have contacted the Ohio Department of Education asking if they will experience financial consequences for students who do not participate in Ohio's New State Tests.

State law forbids the Ohio Department of Education from funding a student who does not take a state test in the prior school year. However, Ohio law also allows the state superintendent to issue a waiver that permits the department of education to fund that student the following school year. Under that authority, the department has, in the past, automatically funded these students for many years. We plan on continuing the same practice this year. This means that we will continue to fund each student in your district, regardless of their participation.

I would also like to share that the Senate Education Committee approved an amendment to House Bill 7 last Wednesday that would prohibit the department from withholding state funds for students who do not participate in state tests during the 2014-1015 school year. While this is not yet law, it is evidence that the legislature is responding to this challenging issue.

Additionally, the federal No Child Left Behind Act also requires districts and schools to administer state tests to all students in certain grades and subjects. Federal law says that if fewer than 95 percent of students at a school or district take the tests, there could be financial consequences. This also is true if fewer than 95 percent of a subgroup of students, like students in poverty, take the tests. These consequences vary from school to school based on any grants a school receives and how well it performs otherwise. While schools or districts may not lose federal funding, some could see restrictions placed on their federal funds.

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. Especially at a time when we must prepare our students for the high-skill demands of today's workforce, we need testing--and test results--to tell us how to best help our students succeed. I hope you will explain this critical relationship between testing and teaching to the parents of your communities and encourage them, as much as you are able, to allow their students to take Ohio's New State Tests.

Sincerely,

Richard A. Ross

Superintendent of Public Instruction

Auditor Yost's Got Some Good Ideas for Charter Schools

State auditor Yost testified on HB2 - the bill designed to reform Ohio's broken charter school laws. In his testimony he covered 3 topics, accountability, finance, and governance. His policy suggestions for each are worthwhile and would add significant value to the charter school reform effort if incorporated into the bill.

Here's his testimony, with policy suggestions.

Auditor Yost HB2 Testimony

Executive Budget Analysis for K-12

Here’s an analysis by OEA, of Governor Kasich’s Executive Budget detailing his plans for the state budget for Fiscal Years (FY) 2016 and 2017.

The governor claims that his budget proposal would provide an additional $700 million in state foundation support to schools. However, the approximate $235 million cut in the tangible personal property tax reimbursements to school districts would result in a significantly lower amount. Changes to the school funding formula and tangible personal property tax replacement reductions will result in 323 school districts receiving less money in FY 2016 than they received in FY 2015. Calculations also indicate that approximately 287 districts will receive reductions in FY 2017 over FY 2016 levels. District numbers provided below come from state officials in various offices.

School Funding
  • Increases the per-pupil funding amount from $5,800 in FY 2015 to $5,900 in FY 2016 and $6,000 in FY 2017
  • Retains the school funding structure enacted two years ago and provides for a 2% annual increase for the special education component; 4% annual increase for careertechnical education aid; annual 5% increase for K-3 literacy component
  • Sets a 10% gain cap on annual growth in formula aid in each year of the biennium
  • 236 school districts are on the 10.5% gain cap this year (FY 2015)
  • 204 school districts will receive a cap on increases in FY 2016
  • The administration’s intent is to eliminate the cap on funding by FY 2019
  • Modifies the income adjustment portion of the formula and claims that this adjustment will target state aid to districts with a lower capacity to generate local revenue
  • 321 districts would receive no income adjustment
  • 176 districts would receive increases in the amount of aid beginning in FY 2016
  • 114 districts with higher income would result in a greater share of funding delivered by local contributions and phased in over a five-year period
  • Reduces guaranteed funding for school districts by up to one percent of the district’s combined state and local resources from the prior fiscal year
  • 278 districts would see reductions in FY 2016
  • Reduces payments to school districts from the replacement payments from the elimination of the Tangible Personal Property Tax and Kilowatt Hour Tax by between 1% 2 and 2% of total district funds. The reduction percentage is based upon the property wealth of the school district.
  • 260 districts currently receive reimbursements, 352 districts receive no reimbursements
  • 203 school districts would receive reimbursements in FY 2016
  • 136 school districts would receive reimbursements in FY 2017

Testing
  • Limits time spent on standardized tests to no more than 2 percent of the school year and time spent on practice tests to no more than 1 percent
  • Allows local districts to decide on non-reading diagnostic tests in grades 1-3
  • Eliminates the fall Third Grade Reading Test and requires that the test be taken in the spring and, if needed, in the summer while retaining alternative assessment
  • Eliminates the use of student learning objectives for teachers teaching in non-core subjects areas in grades 4-12

Charter Schools
  • Increases the per-pupil funding amount from $5,800 in FY 2015 to $5,900 in FY 2016 and $6,000 in FY 2017
  • Increases the per-pupil school facilities amount from $100 to $200 per student
  • Establishes a $25 million fund for construction and renovation projects for charter schools with the highest rated (“exemplary”) sponsors
  • Allows charter schools sponsored by the highest rated sponsors to receive local tax dollars if approved by local school boards and voters
  • Prohibits the second-lowest level (“ineffective”) sponsors of charter schools from sponsoring new schools and places them on a one-year improvement plan
  • Sponsors rated at the lowest level (“poor”) would lose their charter schools which would be reassigned to higher performing sponsors and these sponsors would be banned from sponsoring new schools

Vouchers
  • Appropriates $23.5 million in FY 2016 and $31.5 million in FY 2017 for the income-based EdChoice Voucher and expands the program to students in second and third grade whose household income is at or below 200% of the federal poverty level ($47,700 for a family of 4)
  • Increases the EdChoice Voucher amount for students in grades 9-12 from $5,000 to $5,7003

Early Childhood Education
  • Provides an increase of $40 million over the biennium to an additional 6,125 economically disadvantaged children to attend preschool
  • Allocates $14 million over the biennium to cover childcare copays for families making less than 100 percent of the poverty level
  • Appropriates $10 million over the biennium to expand access to early childhood mental health counselors for children, teachers and staff

Other
  • Allows the highest rated teachers to skip additional coursework requirements and take a year off from annual evaluation requirements
  • Exempts districts rated “exceptional” in reading proficiency, student growth and graduation rates from state rules on class size and “other rules” not identified
  • Allows local school districts to exempt third-year teachers from state-level evaluations since Ohio’s four-year licensure program for new teachers includes the Resident Educator Summative Assessment
  • Creates standards for school counselors and provides for $2 million over the biennium to improve access to school counseling services
  • Provides for $200 million over the biennium for two rounds of grants through the Straight A Fund in order to assist schools in projects that increase student achievement and increase student efficiency o Earmarks $18.5 million to train more high school teachers to teach college-level courses and encourage student participation in College Credit Plus
  • Increases funding for the Ohio Community Connectors program by $30 million over the biennium

Taxation Tax Increases (which would generate a $5.17 billion increase in revenue over the biennium)
  • Increases the state sales tax from 5.75% to 6.25%
  • Broadens the sales tax base to include cable TV, parking, travel packages and tours, debt collection services, lobbying services, public relations, management consulting and research/opinion polling
  • Raises the cigarette tax from $1.25 to $2.25 per pack
  • Raises the tax on other tobacco products to a level equivalent to the cigarette tax
  • Adjusts the rate of the Commercial Activities Tax (CAT) on business from 0.26 to 0.32 percent
  • Raises the severance tax on oil and gas, generating an estimated $325 million in revenue
  • Eliminates a number of tax deductions and credits for Ohioans making more than $100,000 in annual income including the retirement income credit, Social Security deduction, $50 senior credit and the lump sum senior credit Tax Decreases (equals a $5.69 billion reduction in revenue over the biennium)
  • Implements a 23% personal income tax reduction across all income brackets over two years
  • Eliminates the income tax for Ohio businesses with annual gross receipts of $2 million or less
  • Maintains Ohio’s 50% tax deduction on the owner’s first $250,000 of net business income for businesses with annual gross receipts of $2 million or more
  • Increases the personal exemption amount for Ohioans who earn $80,000 or less
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