No more Ohio Graduation Test?
By LENNY C. LEPOLA
News Assistant Managing Editor
If you told Big Walnut High School students that soon there would be no more Ohio Graduation Test, a.k.a. OGT, you might expect a loud and boisterous “YAY”. But that “YAY” moment might be short-lived when you tell them what’s coming down the pike to replace the OGT — a nationally standardized college readiness test and 10 end-of-course/year exams in English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies will replace the Ohio Graduation Test.
According to a November 20 press release, the Ohio Board of Regents and the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) are developing requirements to seek bids for a nationally standardized assessment to measure student preparation for post-secondary education and the workforce.
The new national assessment will be required of all high school sophomores beginning with the 2014–15 school year, with no cost to school districts.
The press release also notes that beginning with the 2014–15 school year, the OGT will be replaced by a series of end-of-course/year exams in core high school subjects, including English I, II and III; Algebra I; Geometry; Algebra II; Biology; Physical Science; American History; and American Government.
Student performance on these required tests is expected to be part of the student’s course grade – possibly 20 percent — and a factor in Ohio’s revised accountability system. A transition plan is being finalized for full implementation of the new requirements for Ohio’s students and schools.
Big Walnut is in the third year of a four-year transition to new Math and English Language Arts Standards common between the states but coming down from the national level – a.k.a. Common Core Standards; while Science and Social Studies are transitioning into what are called Revised Ohio Academic Content Standards.
As the district transitions to the new standards, technology is also being upgraded. The district wants students to become more proficient with the technologies they will need for online assessments that will soon be in place, and as their education continues at the college level and in the workforce.
Fast forward to a December conversation with Big Walnut Local School District Director of Academic Achievement Angie Pollock, who said, as with anything in education today, things seem to change almost daily.
Asked if Big Walnut is completely ready for the change from OGT’s to end of course exams and national achievement assessments, Pollock said not quite.
“But we’re in a lot better shape than many school districts,” Pollock added. “Our plan is to be ready by 2014–15. We’re going to tackle it hard this year and next year.”
Pollock said one positive element of the new assessments would be online testing in the fall months, making it easier for teachers and staff to track student progress before school is out for the year.
“In the long run we know it’s best practice to have checks along the way to see how students are doing,” Pollock said. “The only test we have now in the fall is for third-grade reading. I like beginning of the year online testing with fast results, plus another check along the way before students take the high-stakes test.”
Also new in 2014–15 will be fourth and sixth grade Social Studies assessments, Pollock said, Mathematics assessments in grades three through eight, and state developed Science assessments in grades five and eight.
“Currently, there is no Social Studies test until high school,” Pollock said. “It’s a change from the current fifth and eighth grade Social Studies test that’s suspended. There will also be English tests in grades three through eight and the first three years of high school.”
One of the downsides to the change in English assessments, Pollock said, is because of the move to online testing there will not be a separate writing test, just what’s being labeled as a Comprehensive English Language Arts Test.
Pollock said the new Common Core Standards for English call for a shift from fiction to nonfiction, not just in English classes but across the curriculum.
“Students will be getting 30 percent fiction and 70 percent nonfiction across their day,” Pollock said. “This is a big shift from what we’ve had before. We still want to expose students to great literature, but we want to also expose them to the real world.”
Pollock said the four-year transition to Common Core Standards has been a big part of the district being ready for assessment changes.
“We’ve spent a great deal of time preparing for this during our waiver days and teacher collaboration time,” Pollock said. “First we dove into the new standards, and now teachers are working out how to insert these new standards into the classroom. We would like to see the high school ready to go at the end of this year.
“We’re at a major place in educational reform; a huge push to reform education,” Pollock continued. “The problem is they’re trying to change everything all at once — new evaluation systems, inserting technology into the classroom, moving to online testing — and that’s for everybody, just not for our school district. They’re implementing all these changes and teachers in Ohio are overwhelmed, but we’re in a good position.”
Pollock said the state is also talking about changing the state report card format.
“I believe they’re making all these changes out of order,” Pollock said. “I would like to see the new standards in 2014–15 with new assessments, then have them look at the state report card, then look at the evaluation system. The way these changes are coming at us, it’s really frustrating for our staff. We’re trying to keep focused on our students so they’re learning, but sometimes it’s hard to do when all these changes come at you.”