The Ohio Graduation Tests will soon be no more. The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) and Board of Regents have agreed to establish tougher tests with a focus on preparing students for college and beyond.
Private companies will soon be able to compete for a contract to design and help implement the new standardized tests. The tests are expected to kick in during the 2014-2015 school year, but state officials say they could be implemented in time for the 2013-2014 school year if bidding goes well and funding is sufficient. Once the tests are active, high school sophomores will take end-of-year tests to gauge college and career readiness.
The reform is part of a bigger effort that reworks Ohio’s education system with higher standards for schools and studentsCommon Core State Standards, which is a commitment to raise the bar on English and math standards for grades K-12.
The idea behind the reform has bipartisan support, says Kelsey Bergfeld, a legislative service commission fellow for Ohio Sen. Tom Sawyer. Sawyer, a Democrat, is the ranking minority member in the Education Committee. But the new standards also present a potential problem, according to Bergfeld: They’re more difficult to reach, which could impact school grades especially in light of the new school report card system to be established by HB 555.
Bergfeld says the current proposal by Ohio Republicans is too harsh, which could make schools look worse than they are in reality. That problem might be exacerbated by the new tests, she says: If the new tests are too tough, they could make schools and students look bad “because grades are going to drop.”
An early simulation of tougher report card standards in May found poor results for Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS). The simulation showed CPS would drop from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current system to a D-, with 23 schools flunking but Walnut Hills High School retaining its top mark with an A.