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YSHS student facilitators Ben Green and Lucy Callahan, background, moderated a discussion for McKinney Middle School students on problem-solving school issues. The facilitators are part of an effort to train student leaders who can advocate for themselves and others to solve issues that youth find important. (Photo by Lauren Heaton)

At a PTO forum this week, parents considered the value of the increased testing planned for their students this school year.

Parents consider effects of increased standardized testing

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About 35 parents and community members came to a forum on Monday focused on the new federal and state mandates that will more than double the time K–12 students will spend taking standardized tests this school year. Forum sponsors, Yellow Springs Parent-Teacher Organization, used the event to help parents get answers to some of the questions they had about how the testing might affect their children’s ability to learn and how opting out of testing might affect teachers’ evaluations and the school’s reputation.

During a presentation, school administrators explained what they knew about the testing schedule and the likely efffects on the school. These are some of the things the district knows:

• Testing for all students, but especially those in grades 3–12, will increase from approximately five hours over two to five days last year to approximately 13 to 19 hours over nine to 13 days this year.

• The tests include, in chronological order from September through May, a new kindergarten assessment, third-grade reading guarantee exams, the Ohio Graduation Test for those who failed the previous year, five days of Next Gen “performance-based” assessments in English and math, an alternative assessment for students with cognitive disabilities, the regular OGT, Next Gen assessments in science and social studies, Next Gen end-of-course exams in English and math for grades three through nine, Next Gen end-of-course exams in science and social studies for grades four through nine, advanced placement exams and STAR assessments. (The last two the district favors maintaining.)

• Individual students who choose to opt out of testing this year could face a host of consequences, including being held back in third grade (at least on the official record) and not graduating as a high school senior without the OGT. State-mandated teacher and principal evaluations would be negatively affected by aggregate student test scores — though the district could protect teachers’ jobs by agreement with the union to renew all contracts.

• The district is applying for a waiver from all federal and state standardized tests for up to five years, beginning in fall of 2015. Yellow Springs is one of the 15 Innovative Learning Network districts eligible for the 10 available waivers (which all STEM schools automatically receive). The district plans to include alternative student and teacher assessment proposals in its application, such as CWRA+ (performance-based assessments) and student portfolios.

• The first tests of the year start in about two weeks.

The district encouraged especially parents to get involved in what Superintendent Mario Basora said was a “populist issue” about local control of student and teacher assessments. Parents can contact legislators and state representatives to advocate for less testing and more focus on education models that increase collaboration, creativity and love of learning.

Representative Rick Perales, Ohio House District 73

Senator Chris Widener, Ohio Senate District 10

Senator Peggy Lehner, Ohio Senate District 6 (and chairman of the Senate Education Committee)

Dr. Dick Ross, Ohio superintendent of public education and Susan Zelman, former education superintendent and current executive director at Ohio Department of Education

Ohio Deparment of Education, (877) 644-6338;

Read more on this story in this week’s Yellow Springs News.

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