Monday, December 1, 2003

State report card standards aren't based on 'minimums'


Education Q&A

By Denise Smith Amos
The Cincinnati Enquirer

QUESTION: We read every year that local school districts get "A+++" report cards because they pass 100 percent of the "standards" set by the state. What are these standards? As I read it, these are minimums set for the school districts to achieve. In my book, achieving a standard is a "C" not an "A."

ANSWER: Academic content standards are statements describing what kids should know - and be able to do - by the end of each grade. They are not minimums, says Patti Grey, communications director of the Ohio Department of Education.

. "Our standards are high and rigorous expectations of what students need to know to be successful,'' she said

Groups of educators, employers and parents set Ohio's academic standards starting in 1999. The standards became law in 2001, a year before the federal No Child Left Behind Act took effect.

Ohio has long tested its students. Its current proficiency tests are as old as 1987, when Ohio first mandated them for ninth- and 12th-graders. Other grades were added later.

These tests do require students show a minimum of skills or knowledge, Grey says. But Ohio is phasing out proficiency tests.

Third-graders will take reading achievement tests this spring; other grades and tests will come later.

Third-grade students, for example, are supposed to be able to sound out words and read with "tone, timing and expression."

Among math skills, third-graders must add and subtract whole numbers, and multiply and divide two-and three-digit numbers by a single-digit number.

Parents can learn more about standards from a new Web site (www.ohioacademicstandards.com) .

Standards also are available at every school and public library.

QUESTION: Cincinnati Public Schools plans to tutor 2,000 students after school: What is going to happen after school with these children that couldn't/shouldn't already be happening during regular school hours?

ANSWER: Jeffrey Brokamp, CPS assistant superintendent, said these student will get more attention from tutors than is possible during the school day. Using proficiency test results, each student will be grouped by the skills they need.

Tutors will use special materials and software tied to state standards. And kids will use hand-held devices to answer questions, study and take tests. The Gameboy-like devices, called Brainchild, explain answers and make learning more fun.

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E-mail education questions to damos@enquirer.com or call (513) 768-8395.




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