Commentary on Nearly 99% of Students Took State Tests Last School Year by the Ohio Department of Education


Recently my educator colleagues and I received this communication from the Ohio Department of Education (click the word for the link).
 

As a former school psychologist, psychometrician, Director of Student Services, Assistant Superintendent in charge of Curriculum, Instruction
& Assessment, and current Superintendent of the Olmsted Falls School District I felt the need to opine on this communication because a
statement was made that indicated:

        "Teachers, parents, superintendents and education leaders believe that all students should take the tests, and their communities
          are better served when achievement is measured
."

Before I elaborate on the statement above I should say a few things:
1.  I am in favor of a common set of learning objectives (aka The Common Core...
     Ohio's Standards...whatever you would like to call them). There are a variety of reasons why I am in favor of
     these and I'd be happy to talk about why in a civil manner. I know that there are some people that disagree and that's ok.

2.  I believe that achievement must be measured in some way, shape or form and that the report out (how it looks,
     what it says, and the information contained within it) should be based on the "user" of the assessment information.
     Rick Stiggins and his colleagues taught us much and we need to remember that "HOW" the results are communicated
     should be based on the assessment user's needs. Students, parents, teachers, principals, real estate agents, legislators, etc. are
     all assessment users.

3.  I think Legislators, Governors and those outside of the field of education need to remember that teachers assess
     their students--they always have and they always will. They did this prior to the ACCOUNTABILITY movement. They did this prior to a law
     telling them to do it and they will continue to do it in the absence of a law.  We may need an accountability system,
     however we don't need a law to measure achievement and we certainly don't need a law...an amendment to the law...another amendment and so on.

4.  The core problem isn't (in my opinion) the fact that a test exists...the core problem is there is a widespread belief by those "in charge" that
     every single student must be tested by an assessment developed under the guidance of government AND our legislative leaders
     are making assessment decisions when they know very little about assessment AND (stay with me) those making the decisions about
     assessment aren't getting advice from those who have read the research on the best practices of assessment for and of learning because if they
     were, the decisions that are being made wouldn't be, in fact, being made.

Here's the reality:

Students ARE better served when achievement is measured and acted upon in a timely manner. This happens between the student
and the teacher within the moment of instruction. This is the most personal and powerful form of assessment. Students are not
better served when we're required to line them up and test every single one of them. There's a better way and we need to find it.

Teachers, parents, superintendents and education leaders DO NOT believe all students should take the tests. At least not the
ones in Olmsted Falls; nor the ones that I've had the good fortune to speak with in the Greater Cleveland Area.    

Our school district and some of the others in our area had a significant number of student assessment opt outs during the last testing period. It impacted
our district so much we did not have 95% of our student population assessed; which is a Federal Accountability Indicator. We missed that
Participation Indicator and will have one of our District Report Card Grades dropped...this has never happened in Olmsted Falls since the
inception of the accountability system in Ohio. However I will say this...it doesn't matter. We're choosing to not let ourselves be measured by
test scores alone. Our students are more than the system that has been set up to measure them and the system that is currently in place is under duress.
 

There was a statement that most report card measures are not directly impacted by student participation.
I disagree.


People distrust us (educators) and think that we're trying to convince parents to opt out their struggling students so they aren't "counted"
in our district report cards. The opt out movement is a parent movement and is being done because parents are upset with all of the testing. The opt out
movement is not a group of educators meeting in a back room plotting.

Traditionally high achievers are the ones that are opting out and the impact on Local Report Card Scores is SIGNIFICANT. If you are in a district where
5% of your high achievers have opted out of testing it has a pervasive impact on the information being relayed to the public that the Legislators have
decided to use to rate the school your children go to (i.e. test scores). Whether you think testing is a bad idea or not; at least be in favor of reporting accurate
results to constituents that vote on issues to raise their taxes when they don't want to raise their taxes in the first place because money is tight.
100 years from now people will read what is happening in some sort of book or periodical and they will think it is fiction. 

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that our lowered student participation (around 110 or so students) was a form of protest by parents
and Ohio offered little guidance to the local districts as it was occurring. This year our school district intends to not honor opt outs when parents
present them and as the superintendent I'm being criticized.  I want to be very clear though...we are operating in this manner because we are
following the law... not because we believe all students should be tested.

The truth is we have plenty of assessment information that is generated at the local level to inform our community members, teachers,
principals, parents, students, superintendent, Board Members and others as to how Olmsted Falls students are achieving.  I am only 1 person, but
I am concerned as to how things are developing and what is being developed.

Thank you.

Dr. Jim Lloyd, Superintendent