XENIA — The Ohio Department of Education is accepting comments on the draft of its recently released education plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act.
And some Greene County educators are hoping residents take advantage of that opportunity because they are not at all pleased with what is being proposed, or more accurately, not proposed.
The new plan — required by ESSA, which gives more decision-making power to state and local educators — does not propose any changes to the current state assessment system, which has come under fire locally and statewide the last couple years because of its time-consuming nature and convoluted report cards. The state has justified the lack of action by citing the need for stability in the testing, which has been changed twice in the last three years.
“We are disappointed in the initial release of Ohio’s ESSA plan,” Greeneview Local School District Superintendent Isaac Seevers said. “We see this as an opportunity for Ohio Department of Education and state legislators to take back some state and local control and their initial proposal does not instill confidence that they are willing to make the changes necessary. We believe testing, graduation requirements, and curriculum decisions should be made at the local level. We have a window of opportunity for real educational change, my concern with the ESSA proposal is that it does not take that opportunity seriously and instead opts for maintaining the status quo.”
According to the draft, Ohio actually does more testing than what is required by ESSA: Fall administration of the grade 3 English language arts assessment; Grades 4 and 6 social studies assessments; American history and American government end-of-course assessments; one end-of-course assessment in English language arts; and one end-of-course assessment in mathematics.
But the department claims it has already cut tests and administration time for state assessments by 50 percent between 2014-15 and 2015-16, calling it an area in which it made “significant progress.”
Cedarville superintendent Chad Mason vehemently disagrees.
“When I got to that one my head exploded,” he said. “I can count, it is that simple, even with my public education which our legislators so desperately try to undermine and paint in a negative light. When you tell folks, we have made significant progress and cut testing, it is a blatant lie, they cut the amount of time spent on each test, while simultaneously adding to the number of test(s). Our voters pay for these tests, our voters are misinformed on a grand scale regarding how well their schools are doing, and I have zero confidence those leading public education right now when those same individuals do not understand the implications to their actions.”
Proposed changes include:
— Improving specific report card measures and components and clarifying grade definitions.
— Lowering the threshold number of students for which a subgroup of students must be separately reported in Gap Closing from 30 to 15 to ensure that more student subgroups are identified in an effort to provide targeted interventions.
— Better alignment between the third-grade reading guarantee and the K-3 Literacy component.
— Measuring student engagement by considering chronic absenteeism and student discipline incidents and using those as an initial indicator of school quality. This new initial indicator will include progress towards reducing chronic absenteeism to give schools a gauge of their progress.
Residents can view the entire draft and fill out a survey about it at www.surveymonkey.com/r/ESSAOhioOverview.
Seevers is encouraging residents to read it and submit comments.
“As educational leaders, we need to educate and empower our communities to begin to advocate to legislators,” he said. “If we want change in our schools, we must become educated and vocal on the issues at hand and I would encourage all of us to take this seriously.”
A final draft version is expected to be released sometime in February. Comments will be accepted until Monday, March 6. The final plan will be submitted the US Department of Education Monday, April 3.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.