When the federal government re-authorized the Every Student Succeeds Act (formerly known as No Child Left Behind) in 2015, the hallmark of the law was the freedom it granted states to develop their own accountability systems, among other things. This meant that for the first time in two decades, states could actually reduce the reliance on test scores to drive evaluations of schools, districts and even teachers.
During the intervening year plus, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has held town hall-type meetings around the state, as well as an online survey. The major takeaways from the surveys and input was simple: fewer tests, stop changing the testing regime every year, and more state resources for teachers and support staff. This test focus reflected the fact that only 8% of respondents thought that standardized test scores were the most important measure of student success. About 58% felt that goal-based measures would be a better method.
Given this backdrop, folks in the field were stunned that, when the draft report came out, they learned ODE had proposed to keep the same level of testing. As Akron-area superintendents put it in their protest letter, “we are alarmed that the feedback gathered during these stakeholder meetings does not appear to have been included in Ohio’s plan.” They and others want the state to adopt the minimum testing required under ESSA authorization — reading and math testing for 3-8 grades, and science in 5-8. That would reduce the amount of testing from the current 31 tests to 20, or 21 if the ACT is required.
Instead, ODE has reasoned that keeping the same number of tests is keeping in line with the feedback they received that told them to stop changing tests each year — the last three years, the state has required a different state test each year, thanks to legislative meddling.
There are other concerns the superintendents voiced, including eliminating student testing as a teacher evaluation tool, investing more in pre-K education and wraparound services. But it is the testing concern that has driven the strong reaction to Ohio’s ESSA plan.
Tomorrow, the Joint Education Oversight Committee will hold a hearing on the draft plan. The hearing is open to the public, and public testimony is welcome (details below). Or, you can submit your comments online.
Hearing on Draft Ohio ESSA State Plan
Joint Education Oversight Committee
Thursday, March 2, 2:30 pm
Senate South Hearing Room.
To testify, contact the committee at 614-466-9082.