Wednesday, March 24, 1999

Report on school requirements could bring change

Suggestions include linking standards, tests

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A state report issued Tuesday trumpeted what educators have complained about for years — that Ohio's academic standards are so unclear in state policy books that few know what they are.

        But with a new governor, a new state superintendent of schools, and renewed attention on education funding inequities, some educators predict that Monday's report could catalyze change.

        “It says what many of us already know. But hopefully, this will be the impetus we need — especially with all these new leaders — to make a difference,” said Melanie Bates, an Ohio Board of Education member.

        The study was commissioned by the governor's office, the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Business Roundtable.

        The report calls for state lawmakers to adopt stringent and clear academic standards so teachers in Ohio's 611 districts know what to teach.

        Many standards now in place are “distressingly vague,” according to the report. One set of standards lacks any reference to literature and history.

        The education department's Model Competency- Based Program curriculum guides outline some standards, but those are voluntary and districts vary vastly about how or whether they use them.

        Without academic standards, state proficiency tests carry too much weight, the report said.

        The report recommended that a panel of national experts should be convened to evaluate the tests and make sure they match whatever standards the state develops. Because the tests were designed to measure minimum competency, they may need to be retooled, the report said.

        The study also recommends that the state:

        • Link new high school graduation requirements with strengthened university admissions requirements, so collegians don't have to spend a year or more in remedial instruction.

        • Give such incentives as public recognition, financial rewards or deregulation to successful and improving schools.

        • Hold educators as accountable as students. Students who don't pass proficiency tests are denied diplomas. Unsuccessful educators should also face sanctions. Struggling schools should receive technical assistance — or be closed if they consistently fail.

        • Participate in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, so policy makers and citizens can compare student performance across state lines.

        • Help urban districts by creating a team of urban specialists with the authority to cut red tape and commandeer resources for urban districts. That team also should more effectively link cities' health and social service agencies to schools.

        The Cincinnati Public Schools district, meanwhile, is nearly finished with a five-year effort to develop its own standards.

        Associate Superintendent Kathleen Ware estimates that CPS spent $2 million to $3 million to draft their “credit-granting standards.” The standards will be done this fall.

        “We have really done on our own what should have been done at the state level,” Superintendent Steven Adamowski said. “Unless you align your curriculum with a certain set of standards, student achievement will simply reflect the socioeconomic status of your students.”

        ead ABOUT THE STUDY

        The four-month study was done by Achieve Inc., an independent, nonprofit, bipartisan group created by the nation's governors and business leaders after the 1996 National Education Summit. Its 12-member board includes U.S. Sen. George Voinovich and John Pepper, who chairs Procter & Gamble Co. and the Ohio Business Roundtable.


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