Several OFT members and leaders will serve on the Senate's newly formed Testing Advisory Committee. Appointed by Sen. Peggy Lehner are OFT members Dar Borradaile, a teacher at Miami Valley Career and Technical Center, OFT President Melissa Cropper, who taught in Georgetown before being elected to lead the union, Shari Obrenski, a teacher in Cleveland, Kay Wait, a teacher in Toledo, and Julie Sellers of Cincinnati.
The advisory committee follows a report by Superintendent Richard Ross recommending the number of hours of testing be reduced. More than a dozen OFT members met with Ross to inform his final report. Beyond a reduction in hours, OFT strongly advocates for a more thoughtful discussion about using tests for their intended purposes - to inform instruction - and not for high-stakes decisions.
There are a number of actions that would improve the current testing climate. They include the following:
1. Do not use results of state tests for any high-stakes decisions about students or educators for the next two years. This includes decisions such as graduation requirements, teacher evaluations, employment decisions and compensation.
2. Convene a group of educators across the grade and content spectrum to analyze and evaluate the results of the current round of testing. Such an analysis must address the implementation, if there were problems, what was the cause, and does the assessment actually measure the New Ohio Standards in an effective and valid way?
3. Convene educators to discuss testing and accountability and what is needed to support a positive system that results in helping students to succeed.
4. Collectively bargain decisions on how to determine student growth measures if the measures impact teacher and principal evaluation.
5. Require that teachers are involved in determining the assessment system at a local level.
Assessments and tests are integral parts of the instructional process. Focusing on assessments and tests to provide a number for a report card or educator evaluation rather than on student success produces a toxic environment that does not support learning. It is important for local district administrators and teachers to work together to determine what their students’ need and what contributes to student learning. It is time to devise a rational system of assessment that will benefit the most important people in this discussion – the students. It is their future that relies on getting this right.