CLEVELAND — Schools across Ohio are administering state testing for students.
After not testing last spring, the federal government required these evaluations and although the outcome will not impact the report cards issued by the Ohio Department of Education, the state is requiring the tests also.
But one local school leader said this is not the year to take time to test students.
"And I just don't think that given the circumstances we've had to work through, and our families have had to work through, the testing is really an appropriate measure this year," said Parma City Schools Superintendent Charles Smialek. But, the district is testing.
"Given that and given that we have to test, we're certainly making the best of it," he said.
The district has students in classrooms and learning remotely.
Students learning virtually have to come in and test if the results are to be counted in the data.
But "we've had parents opt-out and we understand that they're opting out. And again, that's one more factor that we will have to deal with in terms of the data that we see," Smialek said.
"We made it clear to districts that no, no one should be forced to bring a student to school if their home remotely learning or what have you," said Paolo DeMaria, the Superintendent of Public Instruction with the state Board of Education.
Usually, the state requires 95% participation for these tests but not this year. Also, because of the circumstances surrounding learning, teaching and access to classrooms during the pandemic, the typical district report cards will be blank.
Smialek wonders why testing is necessary this year.
"It's next year teachers that can take a look back," he said.
For DeMaria, it's more than what teachers can do for students this year.
"The bottom line is data has value," he said.
DeMaria said the data collected this year will help inform future decisions and give educators a look at how pandemic learning has impacted students.
"We're not going to make any judgment calls, any of the consequences that might normally follow if a poor performing school district, those aren't going to be in place," he said. "It's really for informational purposes at this particular time."
The things that changed this year may stay if the legislation passes through the Ohio General Assembly.
Senate Bill 145 and House Bill 200 are waiting on hearings in education committees for both chambers.
SB 145 would keep the A-F letter grades currently given to districts after testing but it would revise the performance measures used to give the grades.
HB 200 would eliminate the letter grades used right now and replace them with categories “significantly exceeds expectations,” “exceeds expectations,” “meets expectations,” “making substantial progress toward expectations,” “making moderate progress toward expectations,” and “in need of support.”
The State Board of Education is watching the legislation closely.
"Which means that we recognize there are some things that in our current report card system that aren't quite right, that could use some improvement in the interest of fairness and usefulness is the thing I really want to see improved," DeMaria said.
During the last year, Smialek said educators at the district level have been the best ones to see how students are doing while learning in the pandemic.
"And to think that a state test is going to tell us something that we haven't already deduced on our own through our own professional practice is really it's an astronomical proposition," he said.