Work begins on tests for Ohio students


SIDNEY — It’s back to the drawing board for Ohio education officials. A new series of tests have to be created and will be given to students during the 2015-16 school year.

Superintendent Richard Ross said Wednesday that the state has contracted with the American Institutes for Research, or AIR, on developing the assessments in English/language arts and math. Officials say the tests will be in place in time to guide teachers in classroom instruction, and the content will align to Ohio’s state learning standards.

“We are in a state of not knowing again,” said Brooke Gessler, Sidney City Schools curriculum coordinator. “The state says they have to produce a new test — they have six months to do it in.

“We won’t be able to tell what it looks like,” she said. “We won’t be able to tell the teachers. We won’t know what to order — whether its online or paper and pencil test. This is a short amount of time to get it all done.”

Larry Claypool, Hardin-Houston Local Schools superintendent, is hoping for a positive result since AIR was involved with the social studies and science tests.

“Like all other schools, PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career) was cumbersome and problematic,” said Claypool. “There were too many downsides, so this is good news for schools everywhere. AIR has been much more user friendly for tech personnel and test coordinators, so those assessments will be welcomed in place of PARCC. It will be interesting to see what AIR comes up with this next year.”

After an outcry from parents in Ohio and across the country, the state has dropped and defunded tests from PARCC.

“At least with PARCC, we knew what to expect from a sample test,” said Gessler. “It’s hard for the teacher since they don’t know the type of questions which will be asked.

“Our teachers have solid knowledge of the standards and that’s what will be tested,” she said. “The scores may not reflect that since we don’t know what will be on the test. We need to help the kids and their response to the test. I believe the students of Ohio won’t let us down.”

Gessler said another uncertain aspect of the testing involves the graduation points each student needs to receive their diploma.

“The graduation points is something the legislators adopted,” she said. “The OGT (Ohio Graduation Test) is gone. The graduation points for the Class of 2018 included the ELA (English and language arts) and math part of the points. There are a lot of questions I have.

Gessler said as soon as the district knows what direction the testing and graduation points is taking, the information will be shared with teachers, students and parents. Information will be placed on the school district’s website and Facebook account.

“Communication is the key,” said Gessler. “From the state to us, and then from us to the kids and us to the parents.”

AIR, said Gessler, created the social studies and science tests which are being used in the state.

Gessler said she and the district’s teachers have learned to “roll with” the changes they have faced with testing required by the state.

“They are one of the most resiliant staff I have ever witnessed,” said Gessler. “I know they will do what they need to do with these changes. We can’t ask for more than that.”

Gessler said the local staff “has no anger for us and the administration. I’m very thankful for that. They know no one here is directly responsible for the changes. I know that we’ll weather this too.”

The new law requires replacement tests to be shorter and for returns results be given to the districts faster than they were during the 2014-15 school year.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4822; follow her on Twitter @MelSpeicherSDN. Follow the SDN on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.The Associated Press contributed to this article.