Saturday, June 16, 2001

Schools ready for new U.S. law


Senate bill would mean more tests

By Ben L. Kaufman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Ohio and Kentucky are well placed to comply with new federal accountability rules for public schools.

        Both states mandate periodic math and reading tests in elementary and high schools and both require annual report cards on student achievement in each school.

        However, both states will have to give more tests if rules adopted by the Senate on Thursday survive negotiations with the House, which previously adopted a similar education bill.

        The Senate wants annual math and reading tests in grades 3-8 and once in high school.

        The federal initiative comes as Ohio shifts from multiple proficiency tests in grades 4, 6, 9 and 12 to readiness tests spread over more years.

        Adopting annual tests could be a problem, said Kathleen Klink, superintendent of the Lakota Local School District, because high-stakes tests can be “very difficult for students.”

        She likes the latest Ohio approach because it allows educators to seek the most effective teaching methods without losing “our emphasis on accountability.”

        Mrs. Klink applauded the Senate's goal of every student reading by the end of third grade and the federal promise of $200 million a year for five years to support literacy programs.

        “It's always helpful to have some money,” she said, but it's not much when compared to the number of youngsters and their range of reading abilities.

        Anxiety and giving appropriate tests were issues for Linda J.C. Taylor, head of the division of teacher education in the University of Cincinnati Teachers College.

        However, teaching what youngsters are supposed to know should minimize everyone's stress, Dr. Taylor added. For instance, she said, too many math teachers focus on drill when tests probe problem-solving abilities.

        A math specialist, Dr. Taylor said Ohio's math tests have been “on target” and new statewide grade-by-grade standards are being prepared in concert with readiness tests.

        “That way,” Dr. Taylor said, “teachers will know what the kids need to know.”

        Dr. Taylor said it should be no different for reading; decide what students need to know, teach it and test them.

        In Kentucky, students take reading tests in grades 4, 7 and 10 and math exams in grades 5, 8 and 11. As in Ohio, it will have to give more tests if the Senate bill becomes law.

        “It won't be much of a problem,” Covington Superintendent Jack Moreland said, so long as tests match curriculum. In that case, annual tests would “mean everyone is in the same boat together” and no one can slack off. “It really spreads the pressure.”

       



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