Keeping your kids’ skills sharp when schools are closed due to coronavirus

Area school officials ask: Why do student testing with virus shutdown?

Some contend students are experience enough stress because of the historic shuttering of much of society and don’t need further anxiety of high-stakes testing this school year.

The student testing, which is a major component in the Ohio Department of Education’s annual school report card, was scheduled to begin Monday.

A bill being drafted in the state legislature would eliminate any negative consequences for students or schools based on those tests, according to State Rep. John Patterson … if the tests are even administered.

MORE: Coronavirus: Schools’ state testing won’t start Monday, in question for whole year

But there are details still to be worked out, such as the need for a federal testing waiver, as well as what to do about tests some high school students might otherwise need to graduate.

“What’s dictating this are extraordinary circumstances, and they require extraordinary measures to seek that which is fair and right for our students and our communities,” Patterson said in discussing closures tied to the Coronavirus outbreak.

Thursday, Indiana state officials ordered all student testing cancelled and schools closed until May 1.

Fairfield Schools’ Mandy Aug, director of curriculum & instruction said “the pandemic is already causing increased anxiety for children and adults, there is no need to add to this by continuing with test administration.”

Lakota Schools Superintendent Matt Miller – and other area public school leaders – have previously criticized the annual student testing – even before the COVID-19 preventive shutdowns of schools – describing the exams as excessive and non-representative in providing a comprehensive picture of a district’s quality of education.

Earlier this week Miller expressed his frustration on social media with state officials still in limbo as to the status of testing.

“Currently on a conference call with federal legislative employees and several superintendents across the country. Stunned by the number of states that have already cancelled high stakes/low impact testing for their students. And in Ohio…we wait,” wrote Miller on Twitter.

Betsy Fuller, spokeswoman for the 16,500-student Lakota Schools, which is the ninth largest school system in Ohio, said the district is now concentrating on the more pressing situation of serving students – including student meals – during the preventive virus shutdown of all K-12 schools.

The district this week is on its previously scheduled spring break.

“Our focus has been, and will continue to be, helping our students, staff and parents navigate through these uncharted times. As we return from spring break and shift to remote learning for our students and staff next week, we will wait for more direction from the state with regards to testing,” said Fuller.

Ohio students in grades 3 through 8 take annual tests in English and math. Students in grades 5 and 8 are tested in science. High school students take seven “end-of-course” exams in varying grades depending on when they take each class — two each in math, English and social studies, plus one science test.

For some students, there are high stakes to the tests. In high school, the tests are one of the primary pathways to graduation. And most third graders must achieve a certain score on the reading test to advance to fourth grade.

Ohio Department of Education officials said in an online document that the most important consideration at this time should be the health and safety of students and of the community. No state testing will take place during the school closure period, and ODE “will take appropriate action to adjust the state’s testing schedule.”

Other area school officials echoed Lakota’s approach, saying they are addressing the most immediate needs of students and school families during the closing.

“In this unprecedented event, we appreciate hearing that our state leaders recognize that Ohio’s educators are working tirelessly to connect and deliver instruction remotely to their students and that lawmakers and ODE officials will take the appropriate actions to adjust the state’s testing schedule,” said Tracey Carson, spokeswoman for Mason Schools.

Aug said “as Patterson stated, ‘these are extraordinary times’ and as a result, our normal way of doing things is likely to be interrupted.”

“It would be unfair to students, teachers, and districts to administer these tests in light of what is currently happening,” she said, adding “even if the tests are administered later this spring, it will be imperative that our legislature take action to remove any negative consequences for students or districts.”

(Dayton Daily News Staff Writer Jeremy P. Kelley contributed to this story)

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