Ohio education officials say they will provide teachers with more training on how to administer a primary-grades assessment after the state recently halted the test, at least for this school year.
The test was to be used to diagnose children’s academic abilities and weaknesses in kindergarten through 3rd grade. But the Ohio Department of Education issued a moratorium on the testing after defiant Cleveland teachers said they would refuse to give the assessment.
“We have no problem with trying to catch these kids early and get intervention for them,” said Debbie Tully, the professional-issues coordinator for the Ohio Federation of Teachers, the state’s affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. “But I kept getting calls from our locals because the test is too cumbersome to give.”
Ms. Tully estimated that it would take roughly 90 minutes of a teacher’s time to give the different sections of the test individually to a pupil, as would have been required.
“Our concern was, logistically, how do you give these tests?” she said.
Plus, hiring substitutes to cover for the teachers would result in a loss of instructional time, she said.
In a Nov. 14 e-mail to district superintendents, state schools Superintendent Susan Tave Zelman said that she had taken the feelings of those teachers into consideration.
“From those concerns, we have concluded that even though we have provided key elements of a diagnostic assessment system, we have not yet developed an efficient system for helping teachers use it,” she wrote. “So, we have determined that it is not productive to require schools to administer the diagnostic assessments this school year.”
She urged district officials, however, to become familiar with the assessment while the moratorium is in effect. The education department, Ms. Zelman wrote, will schedule professional development for teachers on administration of the test through regional meetings, videos, and online training. State officials also will produce a resource manual and a list of guidelines for teachers.
Ohio developed the tests to assess children’s skills in reading, writing, and mathematics in kindergarten through 2nd grade, but only in writing in 3rd grade.
The state legislature mandated the test last year for use in the roughly 300 districts that did not make “adequate yearly progress” under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The only results that had to be reported to the state were those of a 20-minute readiness test for kindergartners.
Other districts were supposed to conduct diagnostic testing in grades K-3, but they didn’t have to use the test developed by the state.
Still Useful for Some
Even with the moratorium on the state test, all Ohio school districts still have to conduct some kind of diagnostic testing in kindergarten and 1st grade. Districts have to intervene if children are not meeting the state’s standards.
Some districts are continuing to use the state’s assessment because they found it to be “a valuable tool,” J.C. Benton, a spokesman for the education department, said in an interview last week.
Ms. Zelman’s message to the local superintendents also suggested that even if districts didn’t use the assessment, becoming familiar with it would help teachers better align their instruction with the state’s academic standards.
Meanwhile, after meeting with the two Democratic state senators who wrote the legislation mandating the test—C.J. Prentiss and Teresa Fedor—the Ohio Federation of Teachers has formed an advisory committee to help make recommendations on its implementation.
The committee includes teachers, an administrator, a psychologist, and a parent.
While the state education department is not required to listen to the committee’s recommendations, Ms. Tully said the group “should have teeth, as we are going to keep on top of it and make sure that the members we have asked to serve are being heard and their ideas are incorporated into action.”