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School testing to get tougher

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Vivian Moon View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vivian Moon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: School testing to get tougher
    Posted: May 31 2015 at 8:33am

School testing to get tougher for students

Current standards too low, experts say

By Jeremy P. Kelley

Staff Writer

For more than a decade, Ohio students were deemed “proficient” on state math and reading tests even if they got more questions wrong than right.

Those results led some parents to believe their children were doing better against peers in other states than they actually were.

“We have very low expectations in the state of Ohio. It’s pathetically low, ” said Middletown City School District assessment coordinator Deborah Houser. “Basically, it’s time to up the expectations.”

State officials admit the low bar served a simple purpose: schools looked better to the public and stayed out of “academic emergency.” And that likely eased pressure to raise performance.

This summer, Ohio and 10 other states will revisit the issue, working together to establish passing scores for the new, tougher tests that were given to students this spring.

“We have to raise the scores,” said state school board president Tom Gunlock. “We have to tell people exactly where we are, instead of continually lying to people.”

The education reform group Achieve, a Common Core educational standards advocate, this month ranked the cutoff scores on Ohio’s 2013-14 tests among the bottom 10 in the nation. That report put the state in the same grouping with Louisiana, Georgia Arkansas and others. This newspaper’s investigation found:

·                       Ohio used to score well above the national average on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading tests, but its scores have stagnated and even declined in the past six years while other states narrowed the gap.

·                       While the state said 90 percent of Ohio seniors met Ohio Graduation Test requirements in 2013, only 63 percent of those students who went on to an Ohio college were able to begin college without remedial help.

Some, like Gunlock, say students and educators will rise to the occasion if held to higher standards.

Others say setting the bar higher could causes thousands of Ohio students to fail the tests, making a high school diploma more difficult to obtain.

“Are you willing to say to the people of this state that 70 percent of our children fail (these tests)?” asked Springfield City Schools superintendent David Estrop, pointing to New York’s 69 percent failure rate when it set a very high bar.

“Second question: If we say that’s OK, what’s the plan to deal with those 70 percent? Do 70 percent or 60 percent of the kids of Ohio not graduate? What do we do with them?”

Previous system called ‘terrible’

Ohio tested its students via the Ohio Achievement Assessments and the Ohio Graduation Test, which are being phased out after more than a decade. State officials decided what scores qualified as advanced, accelerated, proficient, basic or limited on those tests — and many state leaders now admit those standards were poor.

House Education Committee member Mike Henne called them “terrible.” Senate Education Committee Chair Peggy Lehner said they were clearly too low.

To be proficient (or passing), an Ohio seventh-grader only had to correctly answer 45 percent of the reading questions and 32 percent of math questions. In virtually every school, a classroom grade of 59 percent is an F, but all 14 OAA/OGT reading and math tests deemed 59 percent a “proficient” score.

“In our world, even on our report cards, if you walked into your house and said to your mom, ‘I got 37 percent on my test and it was proficient,’ that’s a contradiction,” said Houser. “But in the state of Ohio, that’s all you would have to get correct to be proficient.”

The report by Achieve took individual states’ proficiency standards and compared them to the states’ performance on the national test from NAEP.

The report claimed Ohio’s proficiency scores in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math were among the most inflated in the nation. Ohio deemed 87 percent of its eighth-graders proficient in reading, but only 39 percent of Ohioans who took the corresponding NAEP test were proficient by that national standard.

Ohio’s old system also made it easy for schools to earn state praise. To meet the standard on any state test, an elementary or middle school had to have 75 percent of its students score proficient — a number that was bumped up to 80 percent last year.

Scoring process questioned

Ohio has been raising standards the past few years, including the new requirement that most third-graders reach a minimum reading standard to advance to fourth grade.

The state took a big step toward a higher bar by implementing new learning standards and harder tests this year, including English and math tests from PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) and science and social studies tests from AIR (American Institutes for Research).

School officials say the new tests also focus more on critical thinking and problem solving. Students, for example, must explain how they arrived at an answer and some questions have more than one correct answer. This replaces past tests that have been filled with multiple choice answers, where some students might guess their way through the test.

“There’s an increased emphasis on being able to demonstrate your understanding of how you’re going about solving a problem or arriving at your solution,” said Keith Millard, the assistant superintendent for instruction at the Hamilton City School District.

He added that in answering reading questions, too, the tests place a bigger emphasis on citing evidence from text.

Those tests have been finished for weeks, but the state hasn’t set passing score standards yet and PARCC hasn’t explained the scoring process yet. Scores won’t be available until the fall.

“You really have no idea what target it is that you’re shooting for,” said Keith Millard, the assistant superintendent for instruction at the Hamilton City School District.

PARCC officials said representatives of the 11 member states will review graded tests in July and August, and recommend cutoff scores for the five-level scoring system. PARCC’s governing board, which includes Ohio state superintendent Richard Ross, will vote on those recommendations in September.

The biggest change is in the five scoring levels. In Ohio’s current system, the top three levels (proficient, accelerated, advanced) are the equivalent of passing the test. According to PARCC, only two levels (strong and distinguished) are the equivalent of passing.

Which way will state go?

Despite the controversy over the states proficiency scores, officials at Miami University in Oxford say they’re admitting more- and better-performing Ohio students than ever at the university.

Since 2010, the university has seen a two-point increase in ACT scores for Ohio students, even as the school admits a larger number of in-state high school graduates. The school doesn’t analyze state proficiency scores when selecting applicants. Instead, ACT or SAT scores are analyzed, along with grades and curriculum, among other things.

“We’re seeing students who are incredibly well-prepared, particularly in looking at Ohio,” said Susan Schaurer, the university’s interim director of admissions . She said the strength of classes students are taking has increased, as well.

“They’re demonstrating that they’re prepared to take more challenging coursework.”

Sen. Lehner said kids will improve if the tests improve — even if the state must suffer through a few first years of bad test scores.

“Look at Massachusetts,” said Lehner, R-Kettering. “They moved their bar up substantially. And within 10 years, they were exceeding it and moving it up again. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it certainly is something that needs to happen if we’re going to improve the overall quality of our kids.”

Lehner also wants all states to have the same proficiency standards on tests. Letting each state set its own score means that students in different states could take the same test, provide the same answers, and be declared passing in one state and failing in the other.

Regardless of what the legislature decides, the schools are the ones who will have to hand out the tests.

“It’s really a state issue, not a district issue,” said Lakota Local School spokesman Randy Oppenheimer. “We’re going to administer the tests the states send us.”

The wild card

Despite educators’ complaints about constant change in schools, Ohio House members this month supported a bill that could completely ditch the PARCC and AIR tests and start over next year.

The Senate seems less likely to go that route, and Ohio Department of Education spokesman J.C. Benton pushed back against that idea, saying if Ohio wants its students to make progress, the state needs to “stay the course” with Common Core and PARCC and AIR assessments.

Gunlock said that after PARCC approves cut scores, it’s possible the state legislature would vote to throw out the scores and create its own scale.

“I hope and pray that they do what is best for kids and the state of Ohio and leave politics out of it,” Gunlock said. “This is the last time, I think, that we have a chance to raise the standards high enough so that the kids who are graduating are truly college and career-ready.

 

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VietVet View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote VietVet Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 31 2015 at 9:47am
"For more than a decade, Ohio students were deemed “proficient” on state math and reading tests even if they got more questions wrong than right.
Those results led some parents to believe their children were doing better against peers in other states than they actually were.
“We have very low expectations in the state of Ohio. It’s pathetically low, ” said Middletown City School District assessment coordinator Deborah Houser. “Basically, it’s time to up the expectations.”
State officials admit the low bar served a simple purpose: schools looked better to the public and stayed out of “academic emergency.” And that likely eased pressure to raise performance."

Alright Ms. Houser, then can you explain why the district is always tooting their own horn about how much they have improved in the test scores and how much progress they have made, especially around levy time? Seems to me, by this statement, that you school people knew all along that you were participating in an evaluation system that was presenting false indicators versus the real situation just to get your levies passed.

Yes voters, all these years you have been duped into thinking this district was getting better if you kept feeding them more money. It has not, nor has it ever been the case. They have lied to you and fed you propaganda to get what they wanted while the approving voters have been played the fool many times.

"“We have to raise the scores,” said state school board president Tom Gunlock. “We have to tell people exactly where we are, instead of continually lying to people.”"

Even the state school board president admits it's been a sham.

"Ohio used to score well above the national average on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading tests, but its scores have stagnated and even declined in the past six years while other states narrowed the gap."

We are paying more for regression. Why? Doesn't sound like a good deal for our money.

"“Are you willing to say to the people of this state that 70 percent of our children fail (these tests)?” asked Springfield City Schools superintendent David Estrop, pointing to New York’s 69 percent failure rate when it set a very high bar.
“Second question: If we say that’s OK, what’s the plan to deal with those 70 percent? Do 70 percent or 60 percent of the kids of Ohio not graduate? What do we do with them?”"

Here's an idea Mr. Springfield superintendent.....start doing the job we pay you well to do. Time to end the excuses and JUST DO YOUR DAM JOB like the rest of us who draw a paycheck are expected to do.

The cottling must end in the academic world. Time to go to work people. You are paid well in return. Do your job.

Change? Happens all the time in the private sector. Job demands never stay the same. More and more is expected from the worker bee. Live with it.






I'm so proud of my hometown and what it has become. Recall 'em all. Let's start over.
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TonyB View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote TonyB Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 31 2015 at 9:58am
The real question should be: "Why was school testing ever allowed to get easier in the first place?" That's because the new methods of teaching for testing is a failure. The unrealistic expectations of those teaching methods where we have "quanifiable metrics" to measure effectiveness have proven it. Public education has been taken over by politicians who know nothing about teaching. Doing the job that teachers are paid to do would be much easier if those who aren't teachers would get out of the way. It's about teaching HOW to learn because it is something a child will do for the rest of their adult life!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 409 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 31 2015 at 11:55am


Every morning is the dawn of a new error...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote VietVet Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 31 2015 at 7:06pm
Hmmm. Don't seem to be hearing from the folks who always defend this school district( state school system) when a story starts lobbing negative barrages against their beloved system, when data is produced showing the situation is not rosy and positive. So, how are all of those new school buildings with the technological edge working out for you now? Doesn't appear that all of those new programs, new buildings and those levy's being passed has panned out as planned, right? We will still have some that will support the continued throwing of money toward this district, hoping that someday, it will make a difference. I would have thought that decades of mediocrity, at best, would have convinced most that this district just flat out ain't worth the money to keep it afloat. Let the state take over. Perhaps we can see some movement rather than stagnation.

Folks, it's time to turn off the money tap. Remember this data next time they ask for more buildings or money. Consider if your property tax contribution has made any difference at all and whether the performance and reputation of this school district is doing it's part to make this town and your property more appealing to potential residents and home buyers.

Isn't your money best spent somewhere else based on the performance ROI so far?
Or are you satisfied with continued bad news from your school system?
I'm so proud of my hometown and what it has become. Recall 'em all. Let's start over.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 409 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jun 01 2015 at 9:41am
Finally off the bottom for 2012-13.
Every morning is the dawn of a new error...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote VietVet Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jun 01 2015 at 11:00am
The good news.....making strides to improve the percentage graduating.

The bad news.....one up from bottom feeder Hamilton in the comparison data. A long way to go to get to Ross's level.

I'm so proud of my hometown and what it has become. Recall 'em all. Let's start over.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote chmoore1 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jun 01 2015 at 1:10pm
One additional column that would be helpful is the number of seniors that should have graduated/number that did graduate. New Miami, for example, had a senior class of 57, so 7 students didn't graduate.   Middletown had 404 that year (according to another report from the DOE) which would have been about 60 that didn't graduate. Were these "drop-outs" or those that didn't pass the proficiency test? just 1 chmoore.
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chmoore1 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote chmoore1 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jun 01 2015 at 1:18pm
Ross Local had 216 seniors, so they had 6-7 students that didn't graduate.   just 1chmoore.
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