Common Core brings over-testing into question

Districts across Ohio are currently in their last testing window for the traditional Ohio Achievement Assessments.
TNS Regional News
May 5, 2014

 

A great debate in education is swirling around whether or not students face too many standardized tests from local and state mandates.

Several organized efforts have cropped up in recent years aiming to reduce or repeal what critics claim to be an over-testing of students in grades kindergarten through 12.

There are now at least 186 bills related to assessments being considered in state legislatures in 2014, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The bills stretch across a variety of testing subjects including Common Core, GEDs, English language learner testing and funding issues.

“The United States as a whole is obsessed with tests; we are over-reliant on tests,” said Robin Hiller, executive director of the Network for Public Education, a national group formed a year ago to protect and preserve public education. “We’re opposed to all high-stakes standardized testing.”

The use of standardized tests to measure student achievement has only been on the rise in Ohio since the first proficiency tests in the 1990s, to No Child Left Behind in 2001, to the state’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards in 2010.

A 2013 study by the American Federation of Teachers found that in two, medium-size urban school districts, the time students spend taking tests ranged from 20 to 50 hours per year in heavily tested grades. In addition, students can spend 60 to 110 hours per year in test prep.

“There have always been standardized tests but what’s changed is the sheer volume and how much weight seems to be put on these standardized tests,” said Beverly Smolyansky, a parent in the Lakota district and psychologist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Liberty Twp.

Districts across Ohio are currently in their last testing window for the traditional Ohio Achievement Assessments, as the tests will be replaced with a new round of online assessments next year. Those test scores translate to a district’s letter grades on the state report card.

Ohio is one of 19 states in the consortium Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) that has developed new computer-based, K-12 assessments in mathematics and English language arts to be aligned to the Common Core standards adopted by 44 states.

Ohio education leaders also developed new learning standards for science and social studies that come with another set of online assessments developed by American Institutes of Research.

The new learning standards — detailing what students should know by the end of each grade level — demand deeper critical-thinking and problem-solving skills to prepare students for college and careers, said John Charlton, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education.

Charlton said it’s been Ohio’s stagnant performance in national and global education rankings that has attributed to the need for more rigorous learning standards.

“Ohio has slipped in the past years; we’re not ranked as highly as we used to because we kept our goals low and stagnant,” Charlton said. “Our proficiency levels have been the same for 10 years. We have a reading crisis in Ohio.”

State Representative Andy Thompson (R-Marietta) has authored a bill — currently sitting in the House education committee — that would void the state’s adoption of the Common Core standards and use of PARCC or other assessments related to the Common Core. He affirms that states should develop their own learning standards.

Proponents of the bill to end the Common Core in Ohio voiced concerns about learning standards being too vague or not developmentally appropriate in some cases; students being tested too often; and too much student information being shared with companies.

Those who testified in favor of the Common Core cited the need for more critical thinking and close reading of complex texts; a greater emphasis on written responses; and the time and financial investment that’s already been made by districts and teachers across the state.

Thompson said while there have been two hearings on the bill, it will likely not reach a third hearing because of resistance from chairman of the education committee, Gerald L. Stebelton (R-Lancaster).

During the last hearing in November — that was cut off after 2.5 hours — more than 600 citizens packed the Statehouse, Thompson said. Testimony was split with 27 opponents and 25 proponents providing testimony.

“The talking points sound really good, but ultimately, this should be about the state of Ohio and parents and students having some input in this thing,” Thompson said.

One advocacy group, Ohioans Against Common Core, was founded in March 2013 by Heidi Huber, of Anderson Twp. The group has several thousand website subscribers and has spurred local groups of concerned parents and teachers, Huber said.

Huber said she first learned about the Common Core through her work at a Christian charter school. She said the more she learned about it, the more concerned she was that something so impactful had been kept off her radar.

“It was kept off the radar on purpose,” Huber said. “It was a covert implementation.”

Huber said it’s troublesome that local control is ceasing to exist anymore across Ohio. She said while states and local districts can develop their own curriculum, it has to be based on national standards and national assessments.

“I want people to realize this is not just the latest fad in education; it’s the capstone to the idea of federal education,” Huber said. “This is No Child Left Behind on steroids … with incessant testing and data mining.”

Local state representative Tim Derickson(R-Oxford), who sits on the House education committee, said the public hearings in legislative committees are important because it allows the legislators to hear from both sides on a certain issue. He said it’s those public forums, as well as speaking to constituents, that help guide legislators’ decisions.

“I’m not as concerned with the raising of standards as I am with the actual testing and how it drives curriculum and data collection on our students,” Derickson said. “We’re always changing the rules on education requirements, evaluations and how teachers teach. It seems like we do it too much and we ought to just let the teachers teach … and let them catch up on the laws imposed.”

Under the new learning standards, spring assessments will be given in multiple sections over several days, rather than a single day for a single subject, said Keith Millard, assistant superintendent of instruction for Hamilton City Schools.

“The scope of testing in the district pales in comparison to what’s going to occur next year should full implementation of testing occur,” Millard said.

Millard said time spent on state-mandated tests each year ranges from five hours for a third grader, to 7.5 hours for a fifth grader, to 12.5 hours for a sophomore. On top of that, district-mandated tests amount to five to 10 hours per year.

In the 2014-15 school year, districts will move from a week of OAA testing to a three-month-long testing window that begins with performance-based assessments in the four core subjects during February and March, and finishes with end-of-year course exams in the four subjects during April and May.

“Conservatively, you can double the time that you’re looking at,” Millard said. “So it’s going to dramatically alter how schools conduct business in regards to testing.”

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By Hannah Poturalski - Journal-News, Hamilton, Ohio (MCT)

©2014 the Journal-News (Hamilton, Ohio)

Visit the Journal-News (Hamilton, Ohio) at www.journal-news.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Comments

truckin

I personally do not like it..
Some of the test and just the way they want the answers sought out, puzzles me. Not really learning anything anymore.. Just a guideline to memorize then move on.
If a child gets stuck...the class just still keeps moving on..
Way too fast for some..but with this EQUALITY stuff.. they just don't seem to want to let some progress quicker if can and others at a slightly slower speed as many need..
I believe Government sponsored education has definitely crossed a line in which they feel It's a ONE SIZE FITS ALL WORLD

ladydye_5

If I was to be starting with little ones I would homeschool in a heartbeat. The education be taught now and the public school system is BROKE. Common Core is a joke! I am counting my time till mine graduate. One year to go.

SuperWittySmitty's picture
SuperWittySmitty

Whenever I hear this, I ask them if they've ever actually looked at the Common Core standards, and almost inevitably, they have NOT. It's easy to access the Common Core Standards online. There is nothing wrong with the content- it all makes perfect sense to expect our students to have this knowledge. Unless you are comfortable with our ranking among other nations: 39th!!! These other countries are laughing at us, unfortunately. (I refer only to ELA Standards- I haven't really studied the math or science part- I am only qualified to comment on English Language Arts.

ladydye_5

Yes I have looked at it, researched it and read many articles. The information I have found and read. The teachers I have spoke too, I am not convinced it is the way to fix the education system. Most teachers I have spoke to do not endorse it either.

SuperWittySmitty's picture
SuperWittySmitty

No one will ever give a specific example of what in the CCSS they do not like- they are always vague about it. The teachers I know have been using it daily for the last four years and it's no big deal- many of us use it as a tool to educate, exactly as it was designed to do. Maybe the teachers you spoke to can explain how America has fallen to 39th place in the world? Cicero said that one should “criticize by creation, not by finding fault.” What do you say should be done?

truckin

So what your saying... is after many years of college and a teaching degree is achieved..?
a guideline/chart/tool is needed.... to teach??
What kind of teachers are we talking about??..are they even teachers??
or blooming idiots who still have to have.. and WANT to have someone guiding them?
Oh my.. do you even have a spine? your own thoughts? ideas?
or just easier to get a government guide?
What world do i live in??
Where educators need to be lead by the hand!

SuperWittySmitty's picture
SuperWittySmitty

Think of it like a rule book, distributed to every team in the league to make sure that everyone is in the same page. It's designed to fix the huge problem that lead to America's rank of 39th in the world's education standard.

No Child Left Behind was a pathetic attempt at the same thing, and it's because of THAT program that our students are subjected to so many tests.

I would like to teach my students everything, but the CCSS remind me what they need to know in order to pass 9th, 10th, 11th , and 12th grade. I get carried away sometimes, as I am a very enthusiastic teacher- the CCSS help me focus my lesson, and also enable to justify my lesson to the principal.

For instance, your "style" of writing small phrases and separating them by ellipses is covered in 6th grade. You should have been held back if this is how you write. The CCSS will remind the teacher that you still can't construct a proper paragraph and need extra help. It's improperly punctuated and grammatically weak. In high school, this sort of writing is a sign that you are borderline illiterate and not qualified to enter middle school.

truckin

As far as my writing style...
the easiest way to only use one hand while??
you don't really think i use my "free time" blogging and commenting..

Besides, it's not so much the teaching style, it's the contents of the lessons which have people up in arms.
The rewriting of history, which is made more in a PC understanding.
The openness of sexuality hetro /or homo.
The public which is becoming more and more aware of the..
Big government is good, AND only government.. is absolutely what is at stake.
When a human opens there eyes and minds, it's harder to play the game

do as i say....follow the leader... a certain few knows what's best for the masses... America is what's bad in the world... is ALL BS.

SuperWittySmitty's picture
SuperWittySmitty

You've never actually looked at them, have you. You have no idea what the Common Core Standards say, do you? You are just going by what other people have said. Ignorance is the biggest problem our country faces.

O'Heritage

The Federal government has no business educating children. They can't find their backside in the dark with a flashlight, but we trust our next generation to their whims? Education has become totally poiliticized and children are the pawns in the big game.

Abolish all school taxes and every piece of the government education institution. Parents can pay to educate their children with the money they save, and do it for less than the government can.

Better yet, Homeschool your kids; they will be light years ahead of their peers by the time they graduate.

SuperWittySmitty's picture
SuperWittySmitty

They'll probably be social misfits who have never learned to collaborate or about group dynamics; who were "taught" by a computer program and a parent ill-equipped for the task. That's okay, someone's got to flip those burgers.