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I am pleased to add Superintendent Greg Power to the honor roll. He spoke up to those in power in Ohio, bluntly castigating them for the “assessment madness” that is ruining education. His statement was posted online by the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy.
Bill Phillis of the Coalition writes:
“The email from Greg Power (posted below) to State Superintendent Dr. Ross expresses the viewpoint of a lot of school administrators and teachers throughout the state and nation. As the Governor and 131st General Assembly gear up to unleash more K-12 public education legislation, other public school personnel may wish to weigh in on policy matters that relate to the education of Ohio’s children.”
Dear Superintendent Ross:
I write from the field to provide feedback regarding the ongoing drive by our state and federal governments to make public education “accountable.” As an advocate for the children of the Little Miami Learning Community, I can no longer remain silent regarding the legislated testing and assessment madness that has been thrust upon our schools. What has been occurring over the last several years and what is about to be unleashed upon our students and staff is nothing short of government malpractice. In fact, I believe the following quote from the 1983 A Nation at Risk is most applicable to what is being done to public education: “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.” Simply replace the phrase “unfriendly power” and insert our “state and federal governments.” In essence, the narrow assessment frenzy is moving us toward achieving the mediocrity referenced in the above quote.
In the name of “accountability” the new, different, and increased high-stakes assessments are in fact driving our learning environments to become so narrowly focused that the state and federal governments are creating a generation of stressed and bewildered test takers. What is being done to our children does not place their needs in proper perspective, nor does it properly support the efforts of our teachers with our children. Our schools cannot create successful, well-rounded students when there is such an overemphasis on high-stakes assessments. I would hope that it is not public education’s goal to create adults who perform well on high stakes tests, but rather adults who are good citizens with the requisite skills necessary to be economically successful citizens. Do employers require their employees to take annual high-stakes assessments on the job? What is going on now is wrong!
Recently, you made some recommendations to reduce and modify assessments and indicated this will require changes in the law. However, it appears that the “fix” will be to legislate a limit, resulting in local districts doing away with meaningful assessments that support the specific learning needs of students while maintaining the high-stakes state assessments. My district uses student assessments to progress monitor so we can ensure each student is progressing with appropriate supports and interventions. I would hate to see this go away because of a state mandated time limit on assessments. There are assessment frameworks available which provide both progress monitoring for formative instruction as well as providing summative student data which shows growth over time. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for the state to adopt such a framework absent the current high stakes framework?
As we prepare for the state-wide infrastructure test this Thursday and for the first of two twenty-day test windows beginning in February, our curriculum director, special education director, EMIS coordinator, technology director, principals, assistant principals and teachers are being required to abandon their primary functional roles to prepare for these assessments. These staff members have spent countless hours and will continue to spend countless hours in these preparation activities as we continue to receive ever changing protocol guidance that often contradicts and causes follow-on support requests from your Ohio Department of Education offices. Departmental guidance has certainly been untimely, ever changing, and at certain points unknowable. I believe the unrealistically legislated timelines of implementation for all of these changes cause even more concern. Why would anyone create such a set of circumstances? We certainly will be seeing the “fruits” of this legislative wisdom coming to full fruition in the coming months.
Of added note, our district continues to incur added expenses as we work to meet all of the requirements needed to support this mandated testing without the benefit of any added financial support from the state or federal levels. Our district has spent and will continue to spend dollars on technology to support the online components of this testing, and will most likely add staff to support this assessment framework. The costs associated with all of this are being borne in large part by the local tax payers. These dollars are better spent on other needs to support our students and their learning needs.
A guideline limitation of 6%-10% has been placed on the number of students who can utilize the “read aloud” accommodation on the ELA portion of the state assessment. We have been in contact with the Ohio Department of Education Office of Exceptional Children and have discussed our concern with this limitation at length. We do not wish to be out of compliance with the federal IDEA requirements related to our students who possess an IEP. We have been informed by your department that if we cannot attain the 6%-10% limitation on the “read aloud” accommodation, our test results above this threshold may be invalidated. After having been informed last November that districts needed to work toward this 6%-10% guideline threshold (not achieve it) we now receive ODE guidance that we must be at or below this threshold. All of this just days before the first test. Our district will endeavor to do what is right for our kids and provide the “read aloud” accommodation as verified by our teams. We will do this irrespective of what appears to us to be the arbitrary 6%-10% limitation.
Each community should have the kinds of schools it desires. We believe very strongly in local community control. My district, like many across the state, has been blessed with great kids, families, and staff. Little Miami is a great community where all of our stakeholders work toward supporting each child. In the current context of what has been legislated and mandated, continuing with measuring, assessing, quantifying, and grading our kids, staff, and schools does not provide the supports necessary for each child to succeed. In fact, the current state and federal approach hinders our schools from being able to do so. There is growing displeasure and mistrust of all that is being done to public education in the name of accountability. Please work with us to stop this madness.
Greg Power, Lt. Col. USAF Retired
Little Miami Local Schools