More time for state testing gets an ‘A’

Schools now have extra time to prepare for state testing after Superintendent of Public Instruction Richard A. Ross and the Ohio Department of Education expanded the window for schools to administer the Ohio Achievement Assessments, a decision that has local school officials breathing a sigh of relief.

The window for third to eighth grade testing was originally slated for April 21 to May 9, but will now be extended to last until May 16, giving schools an extra week to organize testing times and make-ups for students who miss.

With a school year that has many districts accumulating well over 10 calamity days, the ODE made the decision to give schools more time for classroom instruction before required testing.

Ross said he hopes that expanding the testing window will provide educators with needed flexibility after a range of missed school days has left many teachers and administrators overwhelmed.

Fort Frye Superintendent Stephanie Starcher expressed concern weeks ago over the issue of testing, and said Wednesday she is pleased that the ODE has recognized that concern.

“It doesn’t make up for the 12 days lost, but we appreciate any amount of time we do get,” Starcher said.

Nearby Wolf Creek Local Schools is now in the process of asking its board of education to extend the third grading period to adjust for lost instructional time and get students caught up on material.

“It’s like playing a ball game without having any practice,” said Wolf Creek Superintendent Bob Caldwell. “This will allow for a re-establishment of structure that was lost.”

District guidance counselors are currently in the process of setting a new testing schedule based on the adjustment.

Marietta City Schools Board of Education President Bill Hutchinson echoed the same feelings.

“Any time you can get them more time in class, the better off they’ll be,” he said.

Warren Local Superintendent Kyle Newton welcomed the chance to have a bit more control over testing after his district has missed so many days.

“Giving us the ability to make that decision is always great,” he said. “As long as it doesn’t bog down the system, because those test results help make future decisions.”

New this year is the implementation of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, an assessment process for kindergarten through third grade students. To advance to fourth grade, students must meet a minimum score on the state reading test in either fall or spring.

“With the new Third Grade Reading Guarantee, new assessment tests, and with a lot of new teacher evaluations and principal evaluations, it’s all hitting at the same time,” said John Charlton, media spokesperson for ODE. “We understand that districts will feel overwhelmed, and we hope that adding this will help.”

ODE has coordinated with the vendors that grade state achievement tests to make the results of the third grade tests a top priority because of the larger impact the results have.

Charlton said individual districts now have the option of scheduling testing any time during the four-week window depending on what they think is best.

Under Ohio legislation, the results from these achievement tests must be returned by June 15. For now, ODE is awaiting approval from the legislature to loosen that deadline.

“We feel confident that they’ll support it and understand it,” Charlton said. “It’s been an unprecedented winter as far as calamity days, so I don’t see it being a big issue.”

Starcher said that receiving those tests results slightly later would be a fair trade off for having more time for testing, especially since the assessments are supposed to be a snapshot of the entire school year anyway.

While other testing dates have been expanded, dates for the Ohio Graduation Tests for high school students will not be expanded or moved.

“Seniors need their results back to attend graduation, which for some schools is held even in early May,” Charlton said. “It would have been too difficult to get those results back, so we chose to keep the OGTs where they were.”

Charlton said this year he has taken comments from teachers and school officials that said they had never seen this amount of change take place within a school year.

“But it’s all within the best interests of children,” Charlton said.