A Butler County state lawmaker is siding with state educators and their calls to reduce the number of state-required tests.
Educators around the state, including those in Butler County, have warned new graduation standards will reverse a growing trend of rising graduation rates, the Journal-News exclusively reported last month.
Now, State Rep. Wes Retherford says he has been talking with educators about what he calls “excessive testing” required of students.
The new, higher standards would first impact high school juniors this school year as they move toward their spring 2018 graduation.
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“It seems like it’s gotten to the point to make the folks in Columbus feel better about themselves, but really it’s hampering our kids’ education,” Retherford, R-Hamilton, said.
While Retherford maintains that there must still be ways to hold taxpayer-funded public schools accountable for student performance, he said student testing should not be to the extent it is now.
“We can’t get rid of the testing without having some kind of guidelines and performance markers to replace it,” he told the Journal-News.
Hamilton City Schools Superintendent Tony Orr said testing became inflated when the Ohio Department of Education “substantially exceeded” the state-testing requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.
“What the state has done, it’s unconscionable, specifically when it comes to graduation requirements,” he said. “State testing doesn’t prove to me that (a student is) successful.”
Orr said no college or university, nor employer, will be asking what a student’s test score was on a specific graduation test. He said colleges and universities will ask for a student’s diploma, high school transcripts, his or her GPA, and ACT or SAT score. Employers will only care if they have a diploma, he said.
“Let’s trust that our teachers are doing their jobs,” said Orr. “We have to have trust and faith that their doing their jobs, just like we have to have trust and faith our legislators are doing their jobs or our doctors are doing their jobs.”
Orr wants the Ohio Department of Education to roll back its testing requirements to only what Every Student Succeed Act requires, and putting a bandage on the problem is not the answer. He said a solution is needed to the problem state testing has created, and “we have a disaster on our hands” because of the projected number of students who will fail if something isn’t done.
Orr held a graduation requirement symposium recently and reported that not only are 52 percent of current Hamilton juniors at risk of not graduating, 70 percent of Middletown and nearly 30 percent Fairfield current juniors are, too, because of the state tests.
“There’s no magic bullet in life,” he said. “We work hard, we trust our teachers work hard … but I don’t know how you measure grit and determination.”
Orr hopes Retherford and other state lawmakers — like Ohio Rep. Margy Conditt, R-Liberty Twp., and Ohio Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, who both attended Orr’s symposium — do something about the testing.
“They’ve seized this problem and hopefully they’ll be able to do something about it,” he said.
Middletown Schools Superintendent Sam Ison, who previously has joined Orr in criticizing the new standards, said he was encouraged state education officials are revisiting the issue and the possibility of altering or delaying the standards.
“It is a start to help schools have additional time to prepare students to achieve the overall standard goal,” said Ison.
Orr also noted, “any time they change these tests, or do any of these things, it costs us a fortune.”
Costs, he said, include ensuring teachers are qualified to teach the new requirements and the textbooks required to meet the new standards.
Orr called it “silly” that local school boards aren’t in charge of educating children as issues are different from district to district.
“I really do think legislators really need to examine the role and the value of the Ohio Department of Education before instituting any unfunded mandates, or any mandates,” he said. I think they should be vetted and voted on by each local board of education and unless there’s support by 51 percent of the school districts, they’re never implemented.”
Staff writer Michael D. Clark contributed to this report.
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