Standards, Testing & Accountability

After much criticism, state superintendent Paolo DeMaria decided to delay Ohio’s submission of its ESSA plan until September. One of the chief complaints was that the plan did not propose any cutbacks on the number of state assessments students take, and a committee is now forming to examine whether any could be culled.

The committee will find that most state assessments must be given to comply with federal law. ESSA, like No Child Left Behind before it, requires annual exams in grades 3-8 in math and English language arts (ELA); science exams once in grades 3-5 and 6-8; and one high school math, ELA, and science exam. This leaves just seven of twenty four state exams on the table for discussion: four social studies assessments, two high school end-of-course exams, and the fall third-grade ELA exam. Ohio students spend less than 2 percent of their time in school taking these state tests.

While eliminating any of these assessments would slightly reduce time on testing, doing so also comes at a steep price. Let’s take a closer look.

Social Studies Exams

Ohio currently administers exams in grades 4 and 6 social studies and end-of-course assessments in US...

Back in 2014, the passage of House Bill 487 ushered in major changes to Ohio education policy, including new high school graduation requirements for 2018 and beyond. Among the new provisions was a requirement that all juniors take a college-admissions exam. Previously, only those students and families considering going to college forked over the money to take a test designed to measure college readiness. Starting this spring, however, Ohio joins several other states  in requiring 11th graders to take either the ACT or SAT (it’s up to districts to choose which one to administer). To offset the mandate’s expense, the state will pick up the tab on testing costs.

Despite recent calls for the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) to reduce state testing, there’s been little pushback about requiring 11th graders to take a college admission exam, probably because the results won’t be a significant part of the state accountability system. It could also be because folks have bigger fish to fry when it comes to fighting the new graduation requirements. Regardless, the statewide administration requirement, which some students have already started taking, is good education policy. Here...

NOTE: The Joint Education Oversight Committee of the Ohio General Assembly is hearing testimony this week on Ohio's proposed ESSA accountability plan. Below is the written testimony that Chad Aldis gave before the committee today.

Thank you Chairman Cupp, and members of the Joint Education Oversight Committee, for giving me the opportunity to provide testimony today on the Ohio Department of Education’s proposed ESSA plan.

My name is Chad Aldis, and I am the Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The Fordham Institute is an education-focused nonprofit that conducts research, analysis, and policy advocacy with offices in Columbus, Dayton, and Washington, D.C. Our Dayton office, through the affiliated Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, is also a charter school sponsor.

I’d like to first applaud the department for their hard work on this plan. ODE staff worked tirelessly to gather a massive amount of stakeholder feedback, and many of the recommendations that they heard throughout the state can be either seen as a part of this plan or are identified as areas meriting further study. I know you’ve listened to testimony from a...

Ohio’s Gap Closing report card component reports how students in certain subgroups perform on state tests and their schools’ graduation rates compared to the collective performance of all students in the state. The subgroups include racial/ethnic groups, students with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged pupils. Gap Closing is one of six major report card components and makes up 15 percent of a school district’s rating in Ohio’s current summative grading formula, set to officially begin in 2017-18.

Currently, Gap Closing compares subgroup proficiency on state assessments and graduation rates to a set, statewide standard—also known as an Annual Measureable Objective (AMO). These objectives rise gradually over time, heightening expectations for subgroup performance. When a school’s subgroup meets the AMO, the school receives the full allotment of points (“full credit”). When the subgroup fails to meet the objective, the school receives no credit—unless it makes improvements relative to the prior year. In such cases, the state awards partial credit. Those points are tallied across subgroups and divided by the points possible to compute a component grade reported on an A-F scale. In certain circumstances, schools’ Gap Closing letter grade could be demoted (e.g., A drops to a B).

Without...

Under federal and state law, Ohio policy makers are responsible for gauging and reporting on the performance of its 3,000 public schools and 600 districts. To do this, Ohio has a report card system that assigns A-F grades based on a variety of performance indicators. While Ohio does not currently roll up these disparate component grades into a final “summative” rating, in 2017-18, the Buckeye State will join thirty-nine other states that do just that.

Why summative grades? They are intended to accomplish a number of purposes, including improving the transparency of complicated rating systems, helping families decide where to send their child to school, and guiding local decision making on which schools need the most help and which deserve recognition. With the importance placed upon these overall ratings, it is critical to examine the grading formula that Ohio policy makers will use to calculate schools’ final letter grades—specifically the weights assigned to each element of the school report card.

Current weights

Ohio law requires the State Board of Education to create the summative school rating formula within two key parameters: 1) it must include all six main components of the state report card; and 2) it must equally...

Jack Archer

NOTE: The Thomas B. Fordham Institute occasionally publishes guest commentaries on its blogs. The views expressed by guest authors do not necessarily reflect those of Fordham.

In the last Ohio Gadfly, I described the many similarities between Washington State’s lengthy debate about high school graduation requirements during the years that I worked there and the debate underway in Ohio now. 

As has been Washington’s habit as well on everything from funding to accountability, the Ohio State Board of Education has kicked the issue to a study panel for the time being. At its meeting on December 13, the Board, after first rejecting proposals to delay or reduce the college and work-ready requirements adopted in 2014, directed the State Superintendent to appoint a work group to “review the graduation requirements and consider alternative approaches." The up-to-twenty-five-member work group with broad representation from the education community is to make a recommendation to Superintendent DeMaria by the Board’s April 2017 meeting.

Following is some immodest advice to the work group from someone who may be new to Ohio but is not new to work groups, task forces,...

Jack Archer

NOTE: The Thomas B. Fordham Institute occasionally publishes guest commentaries on its blogs. The views expressed by guest authors do not necessarily reflect those of Fordham.

Last fall I retired to Northeast Ohio, where my wife and I have family, from Washington state, where I’d been staff to the State Board of Education and the state legislature. In perusing the Plain Dealer one morning, I felt that I could as well have been back in Olympia. 

The story described new state high school graduation requirements linked to higher standards defining readiness for college and career that had been set by Ohio’s State Board of Education and the fierce backlash ensuing from superintendents and others. The State Department of Education calculated that nearly 30 percent of high school juniors were likely to fall short of graduating next year if the new requirements were applied to them. Superintendents organized a protest rally—dubbed by one State Board member a “march for mediocrity”—on the statehouse steps. In light of the concerns voiced, the Board created a task force to make a recommendation on whether the requirements should be changed or phased in in some manner.

That the present controversy resonates with my experience in...

Education Week just issued its twenty-first “Quality Counts” report card for states. Ohio’s grades are so-so—and nearly identical to last year’s. Yet with a “C” overall and ranking twenty-second nationally, the Buckeye State’s standing relative to other states has fallen dramatically since 2010 when it stood proud at number five.

Ohio’s slide in EdWeek’s Quality Counts ranking has become easy fodder for those wishing to criticize the state’s education policies. Those on the receiving end of blame for Ohio’s fall have included: Governor Kasich (and the lawmakers who upended former Governor Strickland’s “evidence-based” school funding system), Ohio’s charter schools (never mind that nothing whatsoever in the EdWeek score cards takes them into consideration!), and even President Obama (specifically for his 2009 Race to the Top program). I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve heard or read that Ohio’s plummeting ranking is incontrovertible evidence of things gone awry.

An almost-twenty slot drop in rankings sounds terrible, but my guess is that many people who lament it don’t know what the ratings comprise or that EdWeek’s indicators have changed over time. Let’s take a look at the overall rankings, and then take a...

As a form of credentialing, high school diplomas are supposed to signal whether a young person possesses a certain set of knowledge and skills. When meaningful, the diploma mutually benefits individuals who have obtained one—it helps them stand out from the crowd—and colleges or employers that must select from a pool of many candidates.

In recent years, however, Ohio’s high school diploma has been diluted to the point where its value has been rightly questioned. One of the central problems has been the state’s embarrassingly easy exit exams, the Ohio Graduation Tests (OGT). To rectify this situation, Ohio is phasing in new high school graduation requirements starting with the class of 2018. Under these new requirements, students must pass a series of seven end-of-course assessments in order to graduate high school, or meet alternative requirements such as attaining a remediation-free ACT score or earning an industry credential.

The end-of-course exams have proven tougher for students to pass than the OGT, leading to concerns that too many young people will soon be stranded without a diploma. One local superintendent called the situation an “apocalypse,” predicting that more than 30 percent of high school students in his...

The Batman v Superman edition

On this week’s podcast, Mike Petrilli, Alyssa Schwenk, and David Griffith discuss the titanic tussle between two tendentious tenets of school success measurement occurring among the mighty minds of Fordham and spilling out into the greater world. It’s proficiency vs. student growth. KA-THOOOOM! On the Research Minute, Amber tackles an early grade retention policy in Florida.

Amber's Research Minute

Christina LiCalsi, Umut Özek, and David Figlio, "The Uneven Implementation of Universal School Policies: Maternal Education and Flordia's Mandatory Grade Retention Policy," CALDER (September 2016).

 

Pages