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Ohio searches for that elusive set of tests that does it all



Published: Fri, January 18, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

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.


Comments

1peggygurney(391 comments)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

I wish they'd stop these darned tests and just teach our kids! Rather than teaching to test, they need to just teach to learn.

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2TB(1167 comments)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

Testing companies have powerful lobbies.

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3meagain(80 comments)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

Many students arrive at college and are in need of remediation because they shouldn't be in college in the first place. Just because students aren't prepared for college doesn't mean schools are failing our students or that we need more tests and different standards. Somewhere along the line we lost sight of the fact that college isn't for everyone. Bring back our manufactoring and quit selling higher education to everyone. Remember they're trying to make a buck too, so the more students they have the more money they make even if it takes 2 or 3 semesters to realize the kid isn't college material. Follow the money. There's money in testing and changing curriculum requires new materials. All of which makes somebody rich. Just like selling people on the notion that everyone needs to go to college.

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4Mark77(7 comments)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

Having taught for over 25 years in an urban setting, I can say that testing has a place. However, state assessment is not first conditioned on student/teacher need. Rather, it is designed top to bottom to first serve political needs. The point is to get the data the bureaucracy wants to evaluate “effectiveness”, not for instructional intervention. Without a doubt it is also a business no different from textbooks or PhD candidates trumpeting the latest “innovation.” Assessment should be easy to implement, easy to deliver, and easy to interpret. There is no reason whatsoever that with today’s technology (particularly with the advent of tablets) that assessment cannot be integrated, seamless, cumulative, and delivered in real time. What is more valuable to the instructional process - one high stakes test per year intended to first benefit the needs of the bureaucracy or ongoing assessment regimen that teachers can use in real time?

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