Thursday, March 29, 2001

Bill seeking state standards, testing overhaul passes Senate




By Travis James Tritten
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COLUMBUS — A bill calling for one set of academic standards for all Ohio schools and an overhaul of the state's current proficiency testing system passed the Ohio Senate on Wednesday.

        The bill would reduce the number of tests students take from 20 to 15 between third grade and high school and would also cut the time they spend taking them.

        “Right now, proficiency tests take five days — that's longer than the bar exam,” said Sen. Mark Mallory, D-Cincinnati.

        The current system has been criticized by parents and teachers for being unfair and causing too much stress for students.

        If the bill, which now goes to the House, becomes law some legislators say it will address many of those problems and clarify academic expectations.

        In addition, they said, it will require the State Board of Education — not school districts — to develop statewide standards in reading, writing, math, science and social studies.

        The state would also be required to create standards for computer literacy, fine arts and foreign language.

        Senate President Richard Finan, R-Evendale, said the new standards are part of a mandate by the Ohio Supreme Court, which has called for reforms in the public schools.

        “If you're going to have proficiency tests or achievement tests, you have to have a standard statewide or you're going to fail the test over there,” he said.

        Despite strong support for the measure — it passed 29-3 — con cerns remain. Mr. Mallory said results of the new testing system would need to be monitored to ensure that it doesn't discriminate against minorities and low-income students.

        In addition, opponents of proficiency testing say the testing overhaul isn't an overhaul at all.

        Mary O'Brien, Ohio coordinator for the Assessment Reform Network of Fairtest, a group lobbying against proficiency tests it says are unfair, said the bill's stipulation that students take more diagnostic tests will actually increase the time students spend on tests.

        The group hopes to kill the measure in the House but does not hold out much hope.

        “We may have a chance to tweak it here and there, but ultimately it will go through,” she said.

       



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