Local school leaders urging state to skip student exams for 2nd year

The possible resumption of student testing, which was cancelled last spring by coronavirus, has some area public school leaders urging a second year of skipping the exams.

Most Ohio students take state reading and math tests each spring from third to eighth grade, science tests in fifth and eighth grade and end-of-course exams in seven subjects across their high school years.

Most testing begins each year in March, but the coronavirus pandemic has some district officials calling for another reprieve.

The Ohio Legislature ended its 2020 session without issuing guidance on what may be required of the state’s 613 school districts regarding the exams, whose results are a major component of the Ohio’s annual report card released in early fall.

“The middle of a pandemic is not the time to continue with the state assessments as they stand,” said Matt Miller, Lakota Schools superintendent.

“School leaders, teachers and staff are doing the best they can to educate Ohio’s students right now. While some districts have remained in person like Lakota, many are remote or hybrid. Students who are attending school in person may have faced extended absences due to COVID-19 or being quarantined.

“They have also had to deal with teacher absences for the same reasons and a lack of substitutes. We appreciate the pause in state testing last spring, but now is not the time to start them back up.”

Jonathan Cooper, superintendent of Mason Schools, echoed Miller’s stance, saying state and federal officials should instead be focused on getting more resources to public schools.

“If ever there was a time to really evaluate how and what we value and measure, a global pandemic is it. Instead of prioritizing standardized tests, federal and state government should be giving schools the resources they need - like COVID tests and ventilation investments - to get children back to school,” said Cooper.

Last-minute changes for this spring are still possible before the testing window opens March 22. Most of Ohio’s state tests are federally mandated, and the transition team of incoming president Joe Biden has not made clear whether they’ll make testing waivers readily available to states.

In recent years, Ohio’s legislature has made multiple changes to testing and graduation rules with just months to spare. That has frustrated educators, leaving them with little time to plan for changes.

Mike Holbrook, superintendent of Hamilton Schools, said he “endorses accountability in a meaningful manner (but) given the many challenges throughout the state of Ohio during a global pandemic, the idea of state assessments is something that must be reconsidered.”

And Madison Schools Superintendent Lisa Tuttle-Huff said any state testing this school year might be helpful as adding to the measurements of the many impacts of coronavirus on schools.

“I believe there’s an increased need for us to be able to attain data that can inform us about the impacts of this pandemic on student learning, however, Madison teachers already are collecting data consistently and monitoring student progress,” said Tuttle-Huff.

“They (teachers) are analyzing the data to help drive their instruction based on student needs. As far as state testing, we would use the data collected from state exams, but it would be one less stress teachers would have to navigate this year if they were cancelled.”

Staff Writer Jeremy P. Kelley contributed to this story

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