Friday, December 01, 2000

Tristaters give student standards qualified OK

Recommendations from state due later this month

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Will Becker, principal of Western Row Elementary in Mason, is one Tristate educator who supports statewide standards such as those being considered by a state commission on student achievement.

        “I don't think having benchmarks in place is a bad thing,” Mr. Becker said. “It helps us all stay on the same page in Ohio.”

        Parent Laura Osborne is glad pass/fail measures for students as young as fourth grade are being reconsidered by the commission.

        “I don't like the whole thing being based on a test” said Ms. Osborne, parent of a first-grader at Summerside in the West Clermont school district. “Some children have difficulty taking the test and freeze up, but (are) very book-smart.”

        The issue of testing, particularly the state's fourth-grade reading guarantee, has been a lightning rod for criticism.

        In two weeks, the state commission will make its recommendations on how to improve student achievement. Gov. Bob Taft has asked the commission — made up of 33 educators, parents, business and community leaders, and public officials from throughout Ohio — to recommend what Ohio children should know and be able to do in each grade before graduation.

        Some considerations generating discussion are:

        • Creating statewide academic standards that specify what children should know by the ends of grades 3, 5, 8 and 12.

        • Developing grade-by-grade curriculum guidelines.

        • Loosening the fourth-grade reading guarantee, set to take effect next school year. Under the guarantee, students who do not pass the reading section of the fourth-grade proficiency test may be held back.

        • Replacing the current fourth-grade proficiency test that tests students for five straight days. Instead, new academic standards would outline what children should know at what grade level, but students could be tested when they are ready, possibly a year earlier than some children or a year later than others.

        • Creating intervention grades with blended curricula, such as grade 4.5 or 8.5, for those who have have not passed the third-grade or seventh-grade tests.

        Bond Hill Academy Principal Thomas Boggs said students have to be held accountable, and having standards is important.

        Cincinnati Public Schools have their own third-grade reading guarantee in addition to the state's fourth-grade guarantee.

        “If you're going to speak to higher standards and hold students accountable, then you need that,” Mr. Boggs said.

        However, schools have to provide the necessary intervention to allow kids to pass the reading tests, he said. He agrees with the commission's idea to create grades 4.5 and 8.5 that blend curricula from grades 3 and 5 and 7 and 9, respectively.

        Jennifer Lamb likes that idea, too. Her fourth-grader in the Oak Hills school district generally does well in school, she said. But the fourth-grade proficiency test gives her anxiety.

        “This year has been an adjustment for her,” Ms. Lamb said. “I would rather my child learn many different concepts in school instead of just learning to pass the test.”


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