Thursday, November 20, 2003

State education officials suspend assessment tests

The Associated Press

CLEVELAND - State education officials have temporarily canceled a new set of exams for children as young as kindergarten age after Cleveland teachers said they would refuse to give them.

State Superintendent Susan Tave Zelman announced the moratorium on the K-3 tests, which measure reading, math and writing skills.

Teachers who field-tested the exams this fall urged that the exam be delayed, saying they would take up too much classroom time, said Deb Tully, professional issues coordinator for the Ohio Federation of Teachers.

"I have a stack of e-mails from field testers, and they all said the same thing," Tully said. "They said it's just logistically impossible to give these."

The kindergarten test, for example, would take a teacher about 90 minutes to give to one student.

Cleveland Teachers Union President Richard DeColibus, who advised his members not to administer the new exams, estimated that the tests would take between five and eight days' worth of classroom instruction.

The assessments include such things as listening to a child read, identifying letters on a page and placing numbers in a sequence.

Zelman acknowledged the state had not provided enough training and support to teachers.

"Feedback about the content of the diagnostic assessments has been positive," she said in an e-mail to school leaders. "On the other hand, feedback also tells us that the products are not complete."

Zelman said state law still requires districts to give their own assessments this school year to children in first and second grade. The state diagnostic assessments may be used, but will not be required this year.

Cincinnati Public Schools will still use the state diagnostic tests in the spring, said Chris Wolff, a spokesman for the district.The district testing manager has trained the K-3 teachers on the tests, she said, and thinks they're good tests.

Norwood City Schools also will opt to use the state's version this year.

"We will give the state diagnostic test, because we think it's a good predictor of how the students will do on the achievement and proficiency tests," Norwood Superintendent Steve Collier said. "To create our own, I think is a mistake. We need to be in line with their style of testing."

One big concern, he said, is what classroom teachers will do with the rest of the class during individual diagnostic tests. "How do you manage that within the normal classroom? Do you have to hire aides to come into the classroom or pool teachers together? We don't have a solution yet," he said.

In any case, Collier thinks it's a good idea the requirement for using the state's tests is on hold so the state can work out some of the bugs.

"Sometimes we rush into trying to implement No Child Left Behind instead of taking time and trying to make sure what we're actually implementing makes sense," Collier said. "Ohio is prying to be out front and trying to be compliant with No Child Left Behind, but maybe we've hurried too fast."

Enquirer reporter Cindy Kranz contributed

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