MANSFIELD, Ohio -- Tom Ash, director of government relations for the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, updated administrators from approximately 20 area school districts on the state budget bill during Mid-Ohio's Administrative Leadership Conference on Tuesday.
Ash's presentation was titled, "Public Policy Put to the Test: A Budget Update." "The title of this is deliberate," opened Ash. "Because for the fourth time in three years, we have legislation that revisits Ohio's testing program."
"We tend to forget the real purpose for the testing. The testing was never intended to compare school districts. It was never intended to provide some letter grade to go on some document that has now become impossible to interpret, Ash said.
"What was the original intent, he asked.
"It was civil rights legislation. It was the subgroups, and narrowing the gaps on the subgroups. And we've forgotten all that," he answered.
He continued, "Testing in American education is on steroids.
"I think probably my favorite question that I ask about testing in this country is this: If you had a low birth weight baby, which would you do--would you feed it more, or would you weigh it more often?
"And I think we've answered that question for American education."
During his presentation, Ash discussed one piece of legislation: House Bill 64 (the budget bill).
He said the bill is over 2,900 pages long. "Less than five percent of it are pages with numbers. The rest of it is all policy change--not just for education, although education is probably about a quarter of it," he noted.
Among the various topics he touched on included state achievement assessments.
"Contrary to popular opinion, PARCC [Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers] assessments are not illegal in the state of Ohio. The state just won't pay for them anymore. So you're not going to give them," he said to the administrators.
The state superintendent was required to select a new assessment provider for the math and English exams."He had that done within a week," said Ash.
American Institutes for Research (AIR), which provided Ohio's science and social studies tests this past school year, was chosen to replace PARCC.
The budget bill requires that the new assessments must be administered once each year (not over multiple windows) and in the second half of the year (except for block scheduled courses), he said.
Plus, the length of the assessments must be less than the 2014-2015 school year tests, he said.
He also discussed the end-of-course exams in nonpublic schools.
"Up until this year, students who were in nonpublic chartered schools were required to take the Ohio Graduation Test and successfully complete the OGT in order to get a diploma," he said.
That's no longer the case.
"Now, if they're attending a chartered nonpublic school, they don't have to take the high school end-of-course exams if the school publishes the results of its college and career readiness assessments, he said.
Additionally, the schools can forgo the end-of-course exams for all students if they administer alternative assessments to all students and publish results, he said.
More than 170 superintendents, principals and other administrators attended the annual conference sponsored by Mid-Ohio Educational Service Center.
“Mid-Ohio’s annual Administrative Leadership Conference is a great way for our school districts and their leadership teams to kick off a new school year,” explained Mid-Ohio ESC Superintendent Linda Keller. “We are welcoming our largest group ever from 20 area school districts.”