Hamilton Schools leader takes unusual step to criticize state testing

Hamilton Schools leader differs with state on district’s report card.

Hamilton Schools Superintendent Tony Orr has been a leading voice criticizing mandated state testing as giving an incomplete picture of his and other school districts’ relative progress from year to year.

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This news outlet has learned Orr took an unusual step during the release last week of the latest round state report cards by distributing — via the district’s automatic phone call system — a message to local school parents criticizing state-ordered testing and how the Ohio Department of Education calculates student test data.

In the recording, Orr states “out of 609 school districts in Ohio, 490 of us received an F in Achievement (report card category).”

“That’s right, the Common Core state test results say over 80 percent of the school districts in Ohio are failing. This is simply wrong,” said Orr in the recording.

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“We (Hamilton Schools) improved in 18 out of 23 tested areas. In many areas we improved by more than 10 percent. Our teachers and our children are doing great things in spite of the misleading tests the state is forcing upon on our community.

“We will continue to improve. Please be proud of your children, our teachers and our community. God Bless,” Orr said in the 51-second message.

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When told of Orr’s contention, state education officials, however, point to much lower failure percentage among Ohio’s 609 school districts achievement in meeting the state’s 23 tested areas.

According to ODE officials, 3 percent of districts received an “F” grade on the Achievement component last school year in terms of students receiving a proficient or higher score on the 23 tests.

Orr said “it’s important to point out the fact that the report card system is flawed. Their (ODE) report card system is indicative of its failure.”

“It’s the misinterpretation of numbers,” he said.

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Orr is not alone.

Some other area superintendents echoed Orr’s contention that the 80 percent failure rate in achievement for Ohio’s school districts is accurate, including Ross Schools Superintendent Scott Gates and Monroe Schools Superintendent Phil Cagwin.

“The accuracy of the state assessments is something I’ve always questioned,” said Cagwin. “Whether or not they are valid measurements of the performance of students … school districts?”

“Now if I’m any kind of teacher … if 80 percent of my kids fail a test, it’s not the kids fault, it’s the measurement tool,” said Cagwin.

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