Excessive tests crimp lesson time, Ohio teachers say

Diane Smeenk’s honors English class is paired with an Advanced Placement U.S. History course so students can study key moments in the country’s history along with literary works.

But this year, the Fairbanks High School teacher and her history counterpart had to adjust their lessons because of interruptions from at least 30 hours of state-mandated and district tests and five school cancellations because of the weather. Students in the Union County district also have missed class time to prepare for the online exams and from shorter class periods because of testing.

With less time to cover concepts, she scrapped two novels and condensed several assignments to keep pace with her lessons plans. “I would have been teaching Of Mice and Men in the middle of World War II,” she said.

Educators throughout Ohio have similar stories of how their school year has been upended by testing overload. School psychologists, counselors and teachers who work with children with special needs or those who struggle with English have spent weeks away from their students because they’ve been pulled to proctor exams. Middle- and high-school students have been revolving in and out of their foreign-language and elective classes to take exams, leaving teachers to hold off on lessons until they return.

Educators say they’ve had to come up with new class assignments for students who are too emotional and tired to focus on lessons. Class schedules have been shortened, and, in some cases, students are operating on two-hour delay schedules typically reserved for bad weather while their peers spend the morning on exams.

“Whenever you change the schedule, it throws kids off,” said Cheri Brown, who helped oversee testing at Edison Intermediate School and Larry Larson Middle School in Grandview Heights.

During six days of testing, fourth-graders at Edison started their academic classes after noon with 25-minute class periods. Middle-schoolers at Larson normally have a 110-minute block for classes; testing shaved their time with teachers by half.

(Read more at the Dispatch)