Adapting to state tests
Bay Village forum covers struggles, hopes in transition to new education mandates
Bay Village Schools Superintendent Clint Keener made clear that he is committed to giving his district’s students their best chance at success, whatever the challenges that Ohio legislators send their way.
He told an audience at the April 28 State Testing Forum, sponsored by Bay Village PTAs, that testing, some kind of testing, is here to stay.
“Testing has always existed,” said Keener. “Testing always will exist. The question is, how much, when, what the test is … and does it measure what we think it measures?”
He wants parents and the public to understand how the Bay Village district has been planning and executing the required changes in Ohio law. That process also included giving feedback to Ohio legislators and the Department of Education.
Char Shryock, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, briefly detailed the district’s preparation over the past three years for the new Ohio learning standards and tests. "We have been ahead of the curve," she said.
The 90-minute meeting also included teacher panelists who described challenges in aligning instruction to the new standards and testing schedules, as well as the logistical struggle of implementing the new computer tests.
Third-grade teacher Martha Fisher, Bay High English teacher Pam Grabo, eighth-grade math teacher Julia Russell and seventh-grade English and social studies teacher Lauren Stanislaw told the audience how they and their students managed this first year of students taking the new tests.
Middle school and high school teachers said they faced a loss of instructional time as complex schedules were more likely to conflict. The loss of technology for learning also occured as computers were tied up with testing. Issues of the high school’s block schedule, high school courses taught in the eighth grade, and end-of-year tests that come well before the course is complete were some of the problems teachers mentioned. Too much time on testing was a recurring theme.
At the third-grade level, Martha Fisher said she sees the testing as just an extension of her teaching, and she tells students testing is a way of life that they will encounter all the time.
Questions came through previous emails, on index cards, and verbally at the end of the meeting. Shryock responded emphatically when asked whether special education students were being denied accommodations stipulated on their Individual Education Plans.
"That is absolutely not true," she said. "The IEP trumps everything; it is a legal document." She said that if a student requires a human reader, he or she gets one. She also said the new tests allow the entire test to be read to a student if necessary, not just the questions and directions as previous state tests allowed.
When asked why teachers did not get to see actual test questions for practice tests, Shryock noted that this is just the first year of the tests. “Forty percent of the test questions will be released this summer. Teachers will see sample tests with real questions that have been used.” She also noted that while test results will not be available to teachers and parents until the fall in this first year, test results will be available almost immediately in future years.
Shryock described other insights she has gleaned from her direct involvement with the PARCC test consortium, of which Ohio is a member, and with Ohio legislators. She is the Ohio Education Leadership Cadre Chair for PARCC, and she serves on the Ohio Senate Advisory Committee on Testing, which is making recommendations for changes in the new testing program. She said many of the issues raised by the teachers are already being included in the Advisory Committee’s recommended changes. In addition to less time on tests, the Committee is recommending “safe harbor,” with no consequences based on test results, for students, districts and teachers for three years.
"This is what we have in the law right now," said Keener, when asked why he did not take a public stance on the tests as have some other superintendents. "I was going to help our students and support them and their teachers in making a run at it, and I was not going to be a distraction." He added that he has professional views, which include that the tests take too much time, and that he works with his professional organization to give that feedback to legislators.
Bay Village PTA Council president Robin Lucak said her group organized the forum in response to parent questions. “We were hearing a lot of confusion about the new tests,” she said. “We wanted to give parents an opportunity to get answers to their questions.”
The meeting in its entirety can be viewed on the district website at bayvillageschools.com/TestingForum. A timeline of video highlights is offered on the video’s webpage so that viewers can fast forward directly to specific individuals and some of the questions.
Director of Communications for the Bay Village City School District