Monday, September 04, 2000

Ohio schools aren't making the grade

State ranks on how well students do on tests

By Liz Sidoti
The Associated Press

About this series

        COLUMBUS — Not just children get punished for bad report cards these days. School districts across Ohio are taking a beating because they can't achieve high grades based on the rates at which their students pass mandatory proficiency tests.

        “The lawmakers said, "Here are the standards and you are required to make sure your students are achieving at this level what ever it takes,'” said John Stanford, the Ohio School Boards Association's deputy director of legislative services. “And then they said they were going to grade districts primarily on proficiency test passing rates.”

        District leaders statewide say they now are paying — with their reputations — despite uneven funding, inadequate curriculum guidance and unclear standards.

        “Students risk being retained, and districts risk looking bad in the community,” said Bert Wiser, director of assessment and accountability for the Worthington City School District.

        Students can suffer fur ther if disappointed voters withhold needed financial support, he said.

        Students are required to take the tests covering reading, writing, math, science and citizenship in the fourth, sixth, ninth and 12th grades.

        The legislature decided scores would make up 25 of 27 criteria by which districts are judged on state-issued report cards. Others are graduation and attendance.

        But over the next few years as the state revamps the proficiency test system, test scores won't count as much, said Jan Crandell, assistant director of assessment and evaluation for the Ohio Department of Education.

        The state is ending the ninth-grade tests and will have students begin trying in the 10th grade to pass tests required for graduation.

        Bob Bowers, the state's associate superintendent for curriculum, said education officials are rewriting proficiency standards, which then will be aligned with curriculum and tests so districts know exactly what to teach. That could take five or six years.

        This year, of the more than 600 public school districts, only 30 were rated “effective.” The state rated 377 as being in “continuous improvement,” 131 in “academic watch” and 69 in the worst category, “academic emergency.”

        “We are left guessing what material will be covered on the tests because the state has failed to provide clear-cut standards for what to teach and failed to align those standards with the tests,” said Dee Morgan, deputy superintendent in the Columbus City School District.


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