Test changes coming to classrooms


By Rachel Lloyd

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DARKE COUNTY — When Gov. John Kasich signed the new state budget last week, he not only put in place the tax and spending plans for the next two years, he also helped ease the pressure on students and educators alike by eliminating Ohio’s participation in Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) testing.

The state has abandoned PARCC as its Common Core test provider and contracted with AIR (American Institutes of Research) for Ohio’s testing next year. AIR already administered the science and social studies testing, but it will now administer the math and English tests as well.

PARCC brought with it a number of complaints, including problems with the content, format and scheduling.

Bradford School Superintendent John Stekli responded to an inquiry about the elimination of the PARCC tests, saying, “Obviously, we’re excited.”

“The testing schedule last year was really out of bounds,” he continued.

Stekli said the PARCC tests took 14 to 16 weeks of class time spent testing and not teaching, and the long turnaround time for results meant that children were not even seeing a benefit from the evaluations.

“The testing this year (which began in February), we won’t even see the results until December,” Stekli said. “By the time we see the results, it becomes too late to use those results for anything meaningful.”

“We aren’t really testing to help students,” he said. “We’re testing to punish teachers.”

The new tests, Stekli said, are supposed to have at least some results back to the schools in 30 to 45 days after testing is completed.

Eliminating PARCC is only a partial solution, but it’s better than nothing, Stekli said.

“We still test too much in Ohio,” he said. “Less of a bad thing is great, but it’s still not a good system.”

Jeff Patrick, superintendent at Franklin-Monroe, said it’s too early to tell if the PARCC elimination will prove to be a good thing.

“I want to wait until we get more details about the changes,” Patrick said.

John N. Stephens, superintendent of Arcanum-Butler Schools, called the elimination of the PARCC tests a “knee-jerk reaction.”

“I think it’s unfortunate the legislators decided to just get ride of PARCC (which was just implemented this past school year),” Stephens said, citing the money spent by the state and the professional development devoted in schools to implement the new testing.

Stephens pointed out that PARCC was just a test provider, and schools are still testing on the Common Core standards. He said he does think it will be easier to have just one platform for the Common Core testing, and AIR has been in use for multiple years, so the schools are familiar with it.

Stephens said the uncertainty always surrounding testing requirements and changes from year to year led to a philosophy in Arcanum-Butler Schools: “We’re always going to expect more out of our students and teachers than any test.”

Rep. Jim Buchy, R-Greenville, applauded House Bill 74 when it passed in the Ohio House of Representatives with broad bipartisan support.

“We should be sending young people to school for teaching, not testing,” Buchy said. “This is a step in the right direction for education in Ohio. We are moving closer to returning control of our schools back to the locals where it belongs.”

Overall, the provisions in the bill are expected to reduce testing time by 50 percent while ensuring continued local control over assessments used by schools and districts, Buchy’s office reported.

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