An open letter about the new statewide tests
to Governor Kasich, State Superintendent Ross,
State Senator Jones, and State Representative Maag
from Springboro Superintendent Todd Petrey
February 10, 2015
Ohio is days away from the first testing window for the new statewide tests. With each step toward these new assessments, I am more and more concerned that Ohio has lost sight of the students. The current drive for “accountability” is diverting resources away from instruction, threatening Ohio schools’ compliance with federal special education law, alarming families, discouraging teachers as well as students, and undermining efforts to build critical thinking skills that are central to our state’s new learning standards.
As a teacher, principal and superintendent over the last 19 years, I am disappointed to knowingly have to divert resources away from our students in order to meet the demands of these assessments. Building principals, assistant principals, technology staff, curriculum staff, special education leaders, counselors, and classroom teachers are dedicating hours to the administration of the tests. The rest of their job responsibilities have to wait as the testing date deadlines loom because school districts across Ohio have to deliver the assessments within the testing window without exception. However, the state’s guidance to help us prepare has been murky and delayed. Now we have learned that we may not have any results delivered back to us for nearly one year. The simple truth is that the state appears unprepared to respond to the many contingencies that occur when you are addressing the unique and important needs of children. And the state seems almost entirely unaware of the hours eliminated from student learning.
In addition to the weeks of staff preparation time to deliver these state-mandated assessments, more than 85 hours of PARCC/AIR testing will occur in the classrooms of our school district from February through May this year. It appeared that shocking statistic might be making a dent in policy when State Superintendent Ross recommended a reduction in assessments. However, I am concerned that his recommendation to reduce testing requires local school districts to limit the assessments we use for progress monitoring, formative instruction and important summative student data instead of reducing the state-mandated assessments.
Assessments should be used to redirect instruction. That is impossible when we will not receive results of the state-mandated assessments for nearly one year. At that point, it appears these assessments are punitive. When the primary purpose of the assessment is to measure the adults, we have lost sight of our students.
Our job is to reach every student, and we strategically use other assessments to guide the differentiation of instruction. Although the new state report card reaches across the full spectrum of student abilities, the current state-mandated assessments ignore the individual needs of students.
For example, with limited guidance on the state-mandated assessments for students with special needs, the state has implied that districts should limit the use of accommodations. For districts with a higher percentage of students with accommodations on their Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) than the state recommends, this is a violation of federal special education law. Our district is choosing to abide by federal IDEA requirements by providing all accommodations listed in our current students’ IEPs for the state-mandated assessments.
As a superintendent, I will see that our district fulfills its responsibilities under state and federal law. However, I also have the responsibility to speak up for students and teachers. There are many differing opinions on education today, but there are also common values. Our community values the individual student’s ability to think critically, work cooperatively and problem-solve. We are now limited to teach these skills within the parameters of the state mandated tests. We simply do not have time to do much more than prepare for the tests. Students, teachers and parents alike are discouraged. I cannot blame them.
As an educator and a parent, I ask the leaders of Ohio to reduce the time spent on state-mandated assessments, commit resources to consider and support all learners through formative and summative assessments that truly benefit instruction, and work with local districts to understand the impact of these state-mandated assessments on student achievement.
Ohio has an opportunity to lead by example, and I encourage you to act quickly on behalf of students across Ohio.
Todd Petrey, Superintendent
Springboro Community City Schools