The controversy over how and when to test Ohio students has been going on for 20 years, and rather than being settled, it is entering yet another iteration.
Measuring academic achievement is not, it seems, an exact science — whether the subject matter be science, reading, writing, math or social studies. But the truly complicating factor is politics, because each time a new governor is elected, his administration seeks to find the holy grail of public education: accountability.
And so, Ohio will be replacing the Ohio Graduation Test during the 2014-15 school year with a nationally standardized college readiness test, such as the ACT or the SAT, and a battery of 10 tests in subject areas.
The college readiness component makes sense since one of the aims of high school should be to prepare a student for higher education, or at least determine that the student is not college material. Even though most parents are loathe to admit it, college is not the birthright or destiny of every child.
Too often, Ohio high school graduates don’t just go to college and begin taking classes; they go to college and begin making the transition to college work by taking a series of remedial classes in subjects they should have already mastered. That’s not only inefficient, it’s debilitating for the student, and Ohio’s college graduation rate of 26 percent, well below the national average, reflects that.
Passing yet failing
Even though the passage rate for sophomores taking the five parts of the OGT — reading, writing, math, science and social studies — ranged from 77 percent in science to 88 percent in writing, 42 percent of Ohio’s incoming college freshmen have to take remedial courses.
To the extent that college-prep tests gauge a student’s readiness for college work, they would provide a better gauge of a student’s academic progress.
We’re cautiously optimistic that this approach has the potential for success.
We’re less sure about the ability of the additional 10 tests in various subject areas to gauge a student’s success or progress — any more than the outgoing OGT was able to do.
Additionally, these tests in English I, II, and III; algebra I and II, geometry, biology, physical science, American history and American government are being looked at not only as gauges of student progress or academic achievement, but as a measure of teacher effectiveness.
The state continues to look for that magic bullet, the one that will hit an elusive and moving target. Past efforts have not produced tests that could accurately reflect whether a student is college-ready. Expecting these tests to also provide empirical data on whether one teacher with one group of students is better or worse than another teacher with a different group of students across town, across the state or across the country is asking a lot from a test. Standardized test have their place, but they also have their limits.