School board passes resolution asking for less state testing in new Ohio standards

North Ridgeville

By Michael Fitzpatrick

The North Ridgeville School Board approved a resolution requesting the state board of education move away from relying so heavily on standardized testing when it finalizes its plan for state education standards which must align with the federal Every Student Succeed Act.

ESSA was signed into federal law in December of 2015. It replaced the No Child Left Behind Act and was designed “to give states and local school districts the flexibility to incorporate new measures of quality and success into their educational accountability systems,” according to the resolution the board approved at its March 21 meeting.

The board based its recommendations on information gathered during a Feb. 12 meeting in Avon in which “citizens were given the chance to review and discuss the response to the ODE’s play from superintendents and curriculum directors from 18 school districts in Lorain and Cuyahoga (counties).”
The resolution calls for the state to create an accountability model that doesn’t overemphasize standardized testing; gives residents of the state more say in creating education policy in the state; gets rid of the current letter grades for state report cards and replaces them with easier to understand language such as Exceeds the Indicator, Meets the Indicator, Approaching the Indicator and Does Not Meet the Indicator; creates a graduation system not so reliant on results of standardized tests; and finally, reduces the numbers of state tests to the number required by federal law and uses the tests to create information teachers can use that “identify gaps in student learning so teachers can provide remedial support” and also report those results in a timely manner.

North Ridgeville Superintendent Jim Powell said essentially what the board is asking for in its resolution is for the state to return more local control of the schools to the local district, which is what the federal government is doing in creating ESSA.

One of the biggest things the local superintendent group would like to see, according to Powell, is the use of state testing not to rank schools, but to help students.

“We assess kids to understand where they are and what we have to do with them and not to rank schools,” Powell said of much of the testing that goes on in local schools.

“So instead of testing kids to rank schools, why don’t we test kids to find out where we can help them,” Powell said.

Powell also said the current ranking of schools is too focused on how students do on those state tests and does not provide a more global look at how students are actually developing.

He said when the state is ranking schools it should look at criteria such as how many students complete a service learning project or go on to college.

“I think some of the changes (recommended) would be very helpful,” Powell said.

“We’re just recommending we lessen the amount of testing for students and that accountability structure needs to be revised. We don’t mind being accountable, but let’s do something that’s not so complex and cumbersome and requires all this testing and people still don’t understand,” Powell said.

Board President Kelly McCarthy said she favors doing away with the letter grades when ranking school systems because it does not provide a clear picture of just how a student or district is progressing.

“An A to F system of grading doesn’t tell the whole story of a school system, as it doesn’t tell the whole story of a child’s performance, either. That is why we are moving to a standardized-based grading system that will allow us to see in what areas a child meets expectations, exceeds expectations or needs improvement. A grading system for school districts that is standards-based would be more telling than traditional grades A to F, “ McCarthy said.

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