By Karen Rainey
AAUW of Ohio Public Policy Chair
Right up there with the continuing to-do around Common Core is the controversy over the testing that accompanies its implementation. Parents, teachers and administrators have all protested the amount of time spent on the new PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) testing.
Driving the expanded time taken up by testing are new teacher evaluation standards, which rely on the achievement tests to partially measure teacher effectiveness, as well as the greater difficulty of the tests themselves. At stake is $750 million in annual federal education funding tied to testing.
The Ohio General Assembly has taken note and proposed several actions. First among these, the House version of the biennial budget, HB 64, specifically cuts out all funding for PARCC tests ($33 million), leaving the state without funds for federally required testing. Also passing the House by a vote of 92-1 is HB 74, which eliminates PARCC tests in Ohio and limits state achievement tests to three hours per test per year.
Advisory committee recommendations
The Senate is still considering the budget and has not yet acted on HB 74. Concerns with testing, however, led to the creation of a Senate advisory committee made up of legislators and educators from around the state, which reported its recommendations in late April. The committee, headed by Sen. Peggy Lehner, chair of the Senate Education Committee, listed as its top recommendations:
- Testing should be scaled back to once a year and the tests should be shortened.
- Accommodations for children with Individual Education Plans (IEPs) must be improved.
- Test results must be returned in a timely manner to benefit student instruction.
- Test questions and answers must be available shortly after the tests are given to ensure they are aligned with Ohio’s learning standards and are developmentally appropriate.
- Schools must plan to move toward on-line testing and state funding for technology upgrades should be considered.
- A single technology platform is preferable for next year’s tests; improvements are needed to ensure smooth administration.
- A “safe harbor” must be in place that does not penalize students, teachers or schools for the results of this year’s tests. (Note: House Bill 7 has been enacted that provides a safe harbor for students.)
- A comprehensive communications plan must be developed to provide all parties with clearer information about the tests.
Why is AAUW concerned about tests?
AAUW believes, along with other national civil and human rights groups, that data obtained through some standardized tests are important because they are the only available, consistent, and objective source of data about disparities in educational outcomes. These data are used to advocate for greater resource equity in schools and more fair treatment for subgroups, including students of color, low-income students, students with disabilities, and English learners.
In response to the backlash against PARCC, AAUW makes the following points:
- PARCC tests will help ensure all students, regardless of income or family background, have equal access to a world-class education to prepare them for success in college and careers.
- PARCC tests serve students of all achievement levels – advanced, average, and struggling – by identifying where they have areas of need as well as where they are excelling.
- These tests not only evaluate a student’s progress, but show teachers and parents exactly where a student needs help so they are able to personalize instruction to meet individual student needs.
- The PARCC tests serve as an “educational GPS system” for parents and teachers to assess where a student is and to help find the best route to get them ready for the next academic material and for success beyond high school. PARCC assessments let parents and educators know if students are prepared for college and careers.
The PARCC board has heard the criticisms and moved to shorten the tests by 90 minutes next year. The board also agreed to administer the tests not twice but only once during the school year, close to the end of the year. Test sections will also be more uniform in length.
It is hoped that the board’s responsiveness to complaints will allow PARCC to continue to provide Ohio’s tests. Recently, information has come out that Ohio’s students do worse on national assessments than on state testing, implying that state tests have been less challenging and more rigor, as with the PARCC tests, is needed.
Also in the works is a bill introduced in the US Senate by Ohio’s Sen. Sherrod Brown. Titled the SMART Act (Support Making Assessments Reliable and Timely), it would help to streamline and improve testing. It would allow states to eliminate tests that are unnecessary and redundant, and increase the amount of support states and school districts receive to help them align testing materials to college and career-ready standards. The proposed act has been endorsed by the Ohio Education Association and the Ohio Federation of Teachers.
What you can do
So what can you do? Ask your legislators to support fixing, rather than scrapping, the PARCC tests. Use AAUW’s Quick Facts on Common Core Standards as a resource, and use the talking points listed above in your conversation. If you want to sample a PARCC test, go to www.parcconline.org. Find your legislator at www.ohiohouse.gov, and www.ohiosenate.gov. Let me know what the response is at email@example.com.
- AAUW Ohio Orbit, Spring 2015 issue, with news of Leadership Workshop 2015
- Public Policy Resources for Branch Programming 2015-16
- Legislative Update: Ohio General Assembly, May 2015
- AAUW Ohio Board of Directors Policy Book: This book is designed to describe duties and responsibilities of officers, chairs, and members of committees; clarify state/branch relationships to prevent inconsistency and improve administration efficiency.
- Policy Book for Branches: The excerpted section of the new AAUW Ohio Policy Book just for branches
- Finance Officers’ Presentation from Convention: Several branch finance officers asked that the counterparts presentation be posted online. The slides are available here in PDF format on the HHL website. You can also find the page from the Programs and Events menu dropdown titled “AAUW Ohio Speaks to Heights-Hillcrest-Lyndhurst.” At convention, the presenters outlined several methods to pay dues to national and Ohio, including by paper or online, and demonstrated the Member Services Database and the Membership Payment Program. National staff members Tremayne Parquet and Jennifer Barton were there and fielded questions. Use the posted slides for review or to look ahead to another presentation planned for the August Leadership Conference. The final slide shows contact information for presenters Patricia Williams, Melissa Marino, Christine Siebeneck, and Nancy Stellhorn.
Date: Saturday, Aug. 8
Times: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Location: Roush Hall at Otterbein University, 1 South Grove St., Westerville, OH 43081
Cost: $30 per person
Theme: Branch Counterpart Focus Day with special sessions for branch leaders — presidents and vice presidents of programming, finance, public policy and membership.
Registration: To register or for more information, email Kaylee Pavel, AAUW Ohio administrator, at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tech Savvy Conference held at Stark State College on April 25 in conjunction with the Alcoa Foundation attracted more than 100 girls.
Tech Savvy is a daylong science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) career conference, by AAUW, designed to attract girls in sixth through ninth grade to these fields and to inform families about STEM education and careers.
— AAUW (@AAUW) April 27, 2015
— AAUW Ohio (@AAUWOhio) April 30, 2015
Then download the full program for the two-day event, which is hosted by Central District Branches of AAUW Ohio. And if you are tweeting about the weekend’s events, please use the hashtag #aauwohconv15.
Here are some of the events on the schedule:
Friday, May 1, 2015: 5:30 – 10 p.m.
5:30 – 7:30 p.m. – Early Registration, Conference Room 3 and Cocktails and Convos in the Atrium: Dress from the year of your branch’s charter.
6:30 – 8 p.m. – Executive Board Dinner & Meeting, Conference Room 3
8:00 – 10 p.m. Convention Book Discussion, Conference Room 4: Overwhelmed Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Schulte. Holly Norton, facilitator, AAUW Ohio
Saturday, May 2, 2015: 8 a.m – 4:15 p.m., plus evening events beginning at 5:30 p.m.
8-11 a.m. – Registration, Salon 3/4
9:15 a.m. – Welcome, Salon 3/4
5:30-6:30 p.m. – Social Hour and Silent Auction, Atrium
6:30-7:30 p.m. – Awards Banquet, Salon 3/4
9:30 p.m. – President’s Reception, President’s Suite
Sunday, May 3, 2015: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
8-11 a.m. – Registration and Credentialing, Salon 3/4
9 a.m. – Opening Session, Salon 3/4
3 p.m. – Adjournment
Links to more:
— Christine Siebeneck (@aauwchristine) April 23, 2015
AAUW of Ohio President Christine Siebeneck is in Washington, D.C. today to meet with staffers for state senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman to advocate for a strong ESEA reauthorization, a move that is supported by AAUW.
Here’s the tweet she posted this morning:
— Christine Siebeneck (@aauwchristine) April 23, 2015
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) was originally passed as part of the Lyndon B. Johnson administration’s War on Poverty campaign. According to the Educationpost website, its original goal and its goal today is “to improve educational equity for students from lower-income families by providing federal funds to school districts serving poor students.”