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.
Michael Sawyers, acting superintendent for ODE, praised the agreement in a statement: “This is a major step forward in our reform efforts to ensure all Ohio students have the knowledge and skills necessary to leave school remediation-free and ready for their post-secondary experience in higher education or workforce training.”
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 acknowledge they could be implemented in time for the 2013-2014 school year if competitive bidding goes well and funding is sufficient.
The reform is part of a bigger effort that reworks Ohio’s education system with higher standards for schools and students. As part of the broader changes, Ohio adopted the Common Core State Standards, which are a commitment to raise the bar on English and math standards for grades K-12.
The overall idea behind the reform has relatively 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 Ohio Senate’s Education Committee.
The problem is in the details — specifically, the details in a new school report card system established by HB 555, which will be voted on in the Ohio House next week. Bergfeld says the current proposal by Ohio Republicans is too harsh, which could make schools look worse than they are in reality. That problem could 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 Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) would fall under the new system. 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.