Wednesday, January 09, 2002

New federal law doesn't worry Ky., Ohio officials

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Students in Ohio and Kentucky probably won't have another layer of tests to worry about with the new federal testing requirements.

        Education departments in both states hope to dovetail the new requirements with tests already in place or being planned.

        “There isn't a state in the union that wants to lump a bunch of tests on kids,” said Lisa Gross, spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Education. “We would probably see their grades suffer .... We have to remember schools are for teaching, not just testing.”

        The education reform legislation that President Bush signed in Hamilton on Tuesday requires annual state tests in reading and mathematics for every child in grades three through eight, beginning in the 2004-05 school year. In 2005-06, schools must add science tests.

        “There's not another layer of tests,” said Patti Grey, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Education. “We will incorporate what we need to satisfy federal legislation in the current assessment system.”

        Ohio is in a good position, she said, because the state is just starting to retool its tests as directed by state law.

        Diagnostic tests planned for grades 3 to 8 probably will become achievement tests because of the federal legislation, Ms. Grey said, but the state will have to get the federal rules about what's required before it makes any decisions.

        “We were already gearing into an annual assessment at every grade level in Ohio,” Ms. Grey said. “It's much better than if we had been two to three years in the process and then asked to rethink.”

        In Kentucky, the state has a comprehensive testing system in place. That includes the annual Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS), for example, which already holds schools accountable. High-performing schools may be given monetary rewards.

        Local educators had mixed reaction about the new federal law.

        Lakota Schools Superintendent Kathleen Klink said she didn't think Ohio schools would have to add much testing because of Ohio's new plan. “Once it's compared with Ohio's new way of testing, it ought to be fine,” Mrs. Klink said. “I do support the president's comments on accountability.”

        University of Cincinnati English instructor Cynthia Crane said she likes parts of the new federal law but believes it puts too much emphasis on testing. “I have problems with it. We're already testing too much,” said Ms. Crane, who is a Hamilton Schools graduate.

        Kathy Dolle, a fifth-grade teacher at Whitaker Elementary in Finneytown, said federal testing requirements probably won't affect Ohio teachers as much as those in states that don't have a lot of testing.

        “I think that the testing is mixed bag. ... What we don't want to do is have the tests drive the instruction totally.

        “As a teacher, I find it a very creative profession, and I don't want to lose that,” Ms. Dolle said. “That's where the joy is.”

        Sue Kiesewetter contributed to this story.

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