Alright, I'm 10 days into the new school year and I feel like I can safely say that I've been assigned to teach an incredibly pleasant and thoughtful group of sophomores. I can also say with some confidence that a great deal of my time has been spent, not on effective ways to reach students, but on excessive pre-tests, the teacher evaluation system, analysis of standardized test questions, the planning of remediation for standardized tests, and other such nonsense that has little to do with what's in the best interest of educating children.
Fortunately, Ohio's Superintendent of Instruction Paolo DeMaria visited the city where I live to participate in a workforce development summit yesterday, and was able to provide an explanation for my focus on standardization and assessment.
According to Elyria's Chronicle-Telegram he explained...
As we continue to watch the economy change, as we continue to watch our global competitors competing against us job for job and dollar for dollar, as we watch other states compete against us job for job and dollar for dollar, a decision was made to raise those standards. We need to raise them higher so more and more students are graduating from high school ready to succeed. We saw too many examples of students getting high school diplomas with hopes of enrolling in a place like Lorain County Community College and you know what — their academic skills just weren’t quite there.
He is right. We have watched our economy change as his colleague, Governor John Kasich drastically cut funding to municipalities eliminating thousands of jobs statewide. Kasich also cut funding to public schools which necessitated cuts of teachers and valuable programs which prepared students for the workplace. My school had a functioning television studio which drove student interest and increased their motivation. It was eliminated, along with some sports, art, instrumental music, and libraries.
DeMaria would be well served to look into some history at the ODE and perhaps some educational philosophy. First of all, students who participate in the arts, sports, and extracurricular programs have a greater likelihood of success. Eliminating them would seem to be counterproductive. Second, what we have implemented in the state of Ohio has little to do with a "decision to raise those standards," as noble as that sounds. What the state legislature and the ODE have implemented is an increasingly excessive and convoluted assessment system that first employed PARCC, now AIR, test questions from Nevada, Utah and elsewhere that they're using as a high stakes measure of students, teachers, and public schools, all while they obstruct similar measures at the charters they claim are effective.
With all due respect, Mr. DeMaria, we have used high stakes assessments for more than a decade and not closed the achievement gap. Furthermore, under the current administration and leadership in the ODE, Ohio has dropped in its national education ranking from 5th to 23rd. These policies are not working.
In another passage the Superintendent uses the introduction of the 3 point line in basketball as an analogy for our increase in standards in order to make students college and career ready...
While I don't think continual changes are a great idea, as evidenced by the state's mess of an assessment system, I do agree with a piece of this statement. There are a lot of tools to gauge the value of an education. So why do we continue to place so much weight on a score on a standardized test?