State Considers New Approach

Moving Away From Testing
Posted on 08/30/2018
Image of Testing(from the Columbus Dispatch)

Each day, second-graders in Robert Goetz’s class at Etna Road Elementary School in Whitehall play a greeting game. Tuesday, they put one of their shoes in a pile, selected one belonging to a classmate, and then returned it to the owner.

“Happy afternoon,” one boy politely told another student as he handed back her shoe.

“Remember eye contact,” Goetz gently reminded.

The teacher said such exercises will help students succeed, teaching them about manners, how to introduce themselves and other interactions.

“It teaches a lot of the social aspect to learn how to talk to each other, get to know each other’s feelings and emotions, and be able to share with each other,” Goetz said. “If you can get the social stuff, the academics will come.”

Development of social skills — in addition to reading and math — is precisely what’s called for in a new five-year education plan launched by the Ohio Department of Education that shifts away from test results to focus on helping students succeed after graduating from high school.

The goal is to increase annually the percentage of graduates who, one year after earning their diploma, are enrolled in college, enrolled an adult career-technical education program or apprenticeship, serving in the military, or in a job that pays a living wage.

“The goal statement shies away from the traditional academic measures that we are using and says what we’re trying to do is prepare students for success, and let’s think about what those students are doing one year out from graduation,” said state Superintendent Paolo DeMaria.

It’s unknown how many recent graduates meet the goal. Department of Education officials say they are working on a way to track it.

The 35-page plan aims to develop the “whole child.” Beyond academics, it calls for social and emotional development, including leadership skills, problem-solving, self-awareness and responsible decision-making.

DeMaria said the plan, “Each Child Our Future, is a “roadmap” for all schools on how to tend to the needs of each child. The approach recognizes practices being followed in Whitehall schools and many other classrooms across the state..

“So many times, we’re looking at averages and numbers of students that are proficient or better, and we clump students together when we really need to recognize that each child is different, each child has their own potential, their own inspiration, their own passions, their own interests and pathway to success,” he said.

Led by DeMaria and the Ohio Board of Education, the plan was developed over the past year by more than 150 educators, parents, lawmakers, business leaders and community officials.

Tuesday’s daylong rollout began with a press conference at the Statehouse, followed by visits to the Tolles Career & Technical Center in Plain City, Etna Road Elementary School and the Columbus Museum of Art.

“Traditional academics are equal to a well-founded content, leadership and social-emotional learning in development of students as human beings,” said Jonathan Juravich, a teacher at Olentangy’s Liberty Tree Elementary School and Ohio’s 2018 Teacher of the Year.

The plan identifies three challenges for the state: preparing students for rapidly changing jobs and needed skill sets; meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse student body, particularly English learners and those with disabilities; and a growing number of poor children facing a host of difficulties.

More than half of Ohio’s’ 1.7 million students are considered economically disadvantaged, an increase of 37 percent in the past decade. And the number of homeless students has more than doubled to more than 20,000.

Silent on the long-debated issue of school funding, the plan stresses that the education system must be built on equal learning opportunities for all students, partnerships with parents and caretakers, health-care providers, business and community leaders and others, and quality schools, both public and private.

The plan includes 10 strategies to help students reach the state’s goal, including effective teachers, supportive principals, expanded quality preschool, literacy skills and more paths to graduation.

As for student testing, which currently is key in measuring success, the plan calls to “move toward a varied system of assessments to appropriately ... allow students to demonstrate competency and mastery in ways beyond state standardized tests.”
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