We’re Changing What We Teach – Part Two

On Thursday and Friday of last week (Nov. 1 and 2) I attended the Ohio Race to the Top Statewide conference at the Columbus Convention Center.  Many of the sessions at this conference focused on Ohio’s transition to new standards and assessments.

As Ohio transitions to the new academic content standards, schools will also take up a revamp to the standardized tests they administer, some of which will account for up to 30% of a student’s grade in the related class, Department of Education officials said Thursday.

When given the opportunity to ask questions of Acting Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael Sawyers, educators at the Annual Statewide Education Conference honed in on the upcoming assessment changes.

Ohio is among 23 states participating in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, which is working to develop assessments for English/Language Arts and Math.

In addition, the State Board of Education last month approved a memorandum of agreement with ODE and the Board of Regents for implementing a replacement of the Ohio Graduation Test,” Mr. Sawyers said.

“At the high level the OGT as required by statute will be replaced; there will be 10 end-of-course exams that are coming to the state of Ohio,” he said.

Currently the English exams are being called English 1, 2 and 3 and will coincide with grades 9, 10 and 11, Mr. Sawyers said. The math assessments will be Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II, but will be complemented with Integrated Math 1, 2 and 3 for use depending on how schools offer their math classes.

Ohio has also agreed to implement two end-of-course exams that will be state specific for social studies and science: American government, American history, Biology and Physical Science, the superintendent said. Each would be administered in a specific grade and will require legislative changes for use.

“Students will be required to participate when they’re actually within the course structure,” he said. “When you take or have access to the curricula, that is when you’re required to participate in the end-of-course exam.” Thus if a student in Worthington takes Algebra 1 or Geometry in middle school, the end of course exam would be taken then.

Mr. Sawyers said although details are still being worked out, the assessments are planned to amount to 20-30% of a student’s grade in the related course.

ODE Associate Superintendent for the Division of Learning Jim Herrholtz said that to accomodate the new assessments in all grades, the windows for testing are going to be much longer than currently, which allows students to take the test when they are ready.

Mr. Herrholtz said ODE has not determined how much time will be given to take the exams, which will be administered online. He said students should not have to stay in the room once they have finished their test but was unable to answer questions about where the student would go and with what supervision.

ODE is processing a technology readiness survey administered to districts to determine what their local Internet and device capabilities are, he said.

“We know that there are some issues with how much technology is out there, and it’s very disparate across many districts; we know that,” Mr. Herrholtz said. “And there’s certainly some IT issues about pipelines and filters and test security that still have yet to be determined.”

The PARCC website details some of the minimum technology requirements for administering the assessments, which Mr. Herrholtz described as very low.

Graduation Test: To replace the OGT, the state is statutorily required to select a nationally recognized college- and career-readiness assessment, which Superintendent Sawyers said would be competitively bid. The test would be administered in the fall of 10th grade.

“It could be PSAT-like, it could be (ACT) Plan-like, it could be Composite-like, it could be ACCUPLACER-like; it’s whatever vendor comes to town,” he said. “That 10th grade fall assessment for college and career readiness is meant to be exactly that. What information are you providing the student and his or her family to help them make informed choices about where their pathway can be, where they’re excelling in curricula, and what their opportunities could be ultimately before they graduate from high school.

“It’s a readiness exam. Participation will be required pursuant to what will ultimately be actually taken for graduation requirements in the state of Ohio.”

Mr. Sawyers said ODE will not know until spring what the actual assessment will be, but it will be administered for the first time no later than fall 2014. Students will only get to take the test once, and the state will pay for that fall administration of the exam.

He said the college- and career-readiness assessment will likely be included on future report cards, but he added that it could appear as a reported only item or become part of the calculation for the score card grade.

As our statewide assessments change, we in Worthington must change to meet the new requirements.  Aligning our high school courses, and the instruction within those courses, to the end of course assessments will be critical if we are serious about making certain all Worthington students meet the college and career readiness standard.

Currently we’re pushing our staff extremely hard to meet these new requirements.  Right now it is difficult.  We’re doing everything that we have always done while also preparing furiously for the future.  It’s two full-time jobs.  But, it is what it is, and in Worthington when the new standards and assessments hit, we’ll be ready!

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