Ohio & Md. move to limit testing

A bill that would eliminate the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, tests in Ohio and limit state achievement tests to three hours per year passed the Ohio House 92-1 on May 13, the Columbus Dispatch reports.

The bill would also make other broad changes in the state’s end-of-course high school tests and is now headed to the Ohio Senate.

“Clearly, the … PARCC assessments are not going well and need to be replaced,” the paper quoted state Rep Andrew Brenner, who sponsored House Bill 74, as saying.

But there’s still a federal law that ties significant federal funding for schools to these tests. Any premature cancellation of federally-mandated tests could threaten about $750 million Ohio’s schools get from the federal government.

“Some of the ways they’ve described how testing could be limited would be in direct violation of federal requirements,” state Sen Peggy Lehner, a Republican from Kettering, said of the House bill. “We could end up with a test that doesn’t do what needs to be done.”

Maryland law

In Maryland, lawmakers have decided they need to know what testing is doing in the state before they pass any laws to restrict it. Gov Larry Hogan signed HB 452 into law on May 12, Maryland Reporter.com said. The new law creates a 19-member commission to study testing in the state.

“A school can be ground to a halt,” said the bill’s sponsor, Delegate Eric Ebersole, a Democrat from Baltimore and Howard counties, who speaks from experience, having taught math for 35 years in Howard County schools. “There is a lot of infrastructure that goes into testing and it uses a lot of manpower.”

The 19-member commission will study how many standardized tests students take and make recommendations on how to change any laws. The group, which is yet to be appointed, will complete its study in about a year and then have until October 2016 to report its findings not just to the state but to local boards of education as well.

Findings will include, for each federal, state, or local test students are required to take, the following information:

  1. the title of the assessment
  2. the purpose of the assessment
  3. if the assessment is a local, state, or federal assessment
  4. the grade level to which the test is administered
  5. the subject area of the assessment
  6. the testing window of the assessment
  7. how long a student has to complete the assessment
  8. if the assessment requires a change in the school schedule

In addition to the above, the commission will report the following:

  1. if the assessment requires any test preparation
  2. if the assessment must be taken by pencil and paper or by electronic device
  3. if applicable, the student-to-electronic device ratio
  4. if the assessment is a high–stakes assessment
  5. the date the assessments are turned in to receive results
  6. the date the results of the assessment are or were released
  7. to whom the results of the assessment are or were released
  8. how much time passes between testing and receipt of the results
  9. if the assessment requires proctors or other personnel to administer the assessment
  10. if the assessment requires technological support to administer the assessment
  11. if the assessment allows for accommodations for students with disabilities
  12. if the assessment is available in other languages

A lot of information, I know. The commission has its work cut out for it, but any changes in the future still seem dependent, to me anyway, on federal law.

Federal law

The No Child Left Behind law requires states to give students math and reading tests every year in grades 3–8 and once in grades 10–12. They also have to test students in science once in grades 3–5, once in grades 6–8, and once in grades 10–12.

But the law is being reconsidered—finally. (It was due to be reauthorized in 2007.)

The US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions voted unanimously in favor of the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, which is now headed to the Senate floor for a vote. The bill doesn’t cut back on testing but among other changes, it would allow states to decide how to use the results from student testing. Under NCLB, the federal government was able to dictate, for example, that 100 percent of students must be “proficient” on the tests by 2014.

Unlike New York, New Jersey, and several other states, Maryland schools have not seen a significant opt-out movement. Lawmakers are undoubtedly responding to pressure created by this national movement, however, as they try to craft laws that meet the demands of citizens but don’t threaten federal funding for schools.

About the Author

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more biographical information, see the About page.