School over-testing getting real in Ohio

The New Ohio Tests replace the Ohio Achievement Assessments (OAA) and the Ohio Graduation Tests (OGT). The OAAs were created to comply with the No Child Left Behind provisions to test all third- through eighth-students each year in reading and math. The OGTs (reading, writing, math, science and social studies) were added as a high school graduation requirement.

Let’s take a look at two questions surrounding the creation and implementation of the next generation of assessments in Ohio. First, what vetting process was used to select PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career) and AIR (American Institute of Research) tests? Second, are these new assessments developmentally appropriate for the students soon to be subjected to a three-months high-stakes testing cycle?

The vetting process starts with a decision the ODE made in 2009 to become a Common Core state. Initially, Common Core was a state initiative to create more rigorous standards in English and Math. Forty-five states, including Ohio, signed up. The federal government then created the Race to the Top program, nationalizing key aspects of a movement that had strictly stated the federal government would not be involved.

Race to the Top was a competition among states for federal funding, with strings attached. States had to promise to implement school reforms favored by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan to cash in. The federal government then awarded two testing companies $360 million to develop the Math and ELA assessments. Pearson/PARCC was one of those companies.

In 2011 and 2012, the Ohio Department of Education decided, with very little public input, that PARCC and AIR tests would take over our schools starting in 2014-15. These mostly online tests have two, three and four parts to them, were not systemically field tested, and are written, according to many research measurement experts, two reading grade levels above the grade of the students subjected to this monolithic mess called national standardized testing.

The scores of the spring assessments will not be available until next fall, after students have moved on to the next grade. Effective testing is suppose to yield immediate results and used diagnostically to help students. The New Ohio Tests accomplish neither.

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