Monday, November 06, 2000

State toughens exam

Help sought early for high school test

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — A state Education Department spokeswoman said parents of eighth-graders should start asking for help now if they feel their children may have trouble passing Ohio's new 10th-grade proficiency test in 2003.

        “The test is challenging and more rigorous” than the current ninth-grade proficiency test, which the new exam will replace, department representative Patti Grey said.

        “If they're talking with teachers now, and a child is having a problem, parents ought to be finding out what intervention is available now from their schools.”

        People with Internet access can get an early look at the exam. The department has put a practice version, complete with answer key, on its Web site.

        Ms. Grey said more than 10,400 people downloaded the new test in the two weeks after its posting on Oct. 23.

Changes in approach
               The Legislature voted to abolish the 10-year-old ninth-grade test, a requirement for high school graduation, saying it does not reflect what a high-school student should learn.

        “From the outset, many educators believed the ninth-grade test ... was a rather modest bottom-line standard,” said Roger Trent, director of assessment and evaluation for the Education Department.

        About 140,000 sophomores are expected to take the test when its given for the first time in 2003. Its subject areas — reading, writing, citizenship, math and science — are the same as the current test.

        Students who don't pass all five sections in the spring of their sophomore year will have several chances to retake it, including after the rest of their class graduates from high school.

        Students who are juniors and seniors in 2003 but still need to pass one or more parts of the ninth-grade test will take the new test.

        About one-fourth of the test questions require students to explain how they solved a math problem or to write an answer for a government or science question.

Harder tasks
               Students also will have to perform more advanced tasks than on the ninth-grade test — analyzing portions of plays and poems, making predictions based on data and showing they understand basic economics.

        Students from several Ohio schools were given practice versions of the new test to determine whether the questions were too easy or difficult.

        One of them, Sarin Touch, a junior at Columbus Briggs High School, said those taking the new exam will have to read more and practice writing.

        “On the ninth-grade test, you can just guess,” she said. “It's multiple choice. But on this test, you have to write it out.

        “It's going to be a big problem if they don't understand what the question's asking,” she added. “You might really get hung up.”

        Said John Neth, a Groveport-Madison High School science teacher who is on a state committee examining test questions: “If you look at the old ninth-grade test, there is a little paragraph to read and you answer the questions from the paragraph. You didn't have to know much.

        “The ninth-grade test was more about processes. If they understood how science worked — how people do investigations and scientific method — they could answer the questions.”

        The questions on the new test are based on a list of things the state wants students to know by the end of 10th grade. That includes analyzing major historical developments; writing from different points of view; recognizing bias and explaining the uses and purposes of propaganda; and using algebra, ratios, proportions and percentages to solve math problems.


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