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Woodridge plans for new state academic standards

3/14/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Becky Tompkins

PENINSULA — In 2010, the Ohio General Assembly approved new, more demanding standards for Ohio’s schools, students, teachers and principals. Since then, Woodridge Local Schools has been preparing for the sweeping changes that are coming.

Woodridge officials held a workshop and forum March 5 to explain the new requirements and answer questions from the public.

The changes are many and are massive in scope. Superintendent Walter Davis said he has never seen “more changes and unfunded mandates than now.”

What is being phased in over several years are changes in what is taught, how it is taught, how learning is assessed and how teachers, principals and schools are evaluated.

The primary focus of the new standards is to graduate young people who are college and career ready, Davis said. Many of the changes are already being implemented in the schools, but Ohio Department of Education (ODE) officials aren’t finished tweaking the new rules and regulations, he said.

“It’s as if they’re designing the airplane while it’s in flight,” Davis said.

The standards that will affect student grades and school ratings are changing, and a new accountability system is coming, he said, adding, “Excellence is being redefined in Ohio.”

The new academic standards, said Woodridge Director of Academic Services Kirk Bennett, will be much more rigorous than the current ones and more relevant to the 21st century, to help combat the fact that many Ohio high school graduates need remedial work when they get to college.

Students will study fewer concepts but in more depth, he said, to help them develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Ohio entered into a consortium with 22 other states to develop Common Core standards for math and English/language arts curriculum, while the state has its own revised standards for science and social studies instruction, Bennett said.

Woodridge teachers are working on the new Common Core standards this year, he said, and will begin teaching the new curricula next school year.

Student progress will be measured not just by written tests, but by a “new generation” of assessments, Bennett said. Tests will be taken on computers, not by answering multiple-choice questions on paper. Getting all children prepared for online testing is a huge statewide undertaking, he added, with technology being embedded in the curriculum from second grade on.

Unlike current testing that determines whether students demonstrate at least minimum competency, the new tests will raise the bar, Bennett said, for example, by requiring students to apply increasingly difficult math concepts, closely analyze what they read and write arguments.

Just taking the tests will require more skill, as students will need to click and drag items into order on the computer, not just fill in ovals with a No. 2 pencil on paper, he said.

The new assessments will be implemented in 2014-15, according to the ODE website. More information on the new standards and assessments can be found at curriculum.education.ohio.gov.

Assessment of high school students will shift from the current Ohio Graduation Test (OGT) to end-of-course exams, which will focus on making sure students are prepared for college or career, Bennett said.

Third-graders will need to be able to read. According to panelist Derran Wimer, executive director of the Summit Education Initiative, knowing how to read by third grade is one of the most critical transition points for children.

Pupils will be tested on whether they can read at grade level. Bennett said there will be a diagnostic pretest for third-graders in October, and students scoring below grade level will receive scientifically based intervention to target the skill that is lacking before the state-required reading test at the end of the school year. Every third-grader whose reading ability is not on track will be put on a reading improvement plan, he said.

If the child does not earn the requisite score on the state reading test, Bennett said, he or she may be promoted to fourth grade if the principal and teacher believe the student is prepared, may be promoted but have to continue with the reading intervention or may be held back in third grade.

Teachers and principals also will be evaluated every year. Valerie Riedthaler, Woodridge director of pupil services, said this is the first time that educator evaluation has been legislated in Ohio.

Half of the teacher’s evaluation will be based on performance. The principal or another credentialed evaluator will visit the classroom, Riedthaler said, and the teachers also must gather evidence throughout the year of ways they are meeting the state standards — things such as communications with parents and professionalism.

The other 50 percent of the teacher’s evaluation will be based on his or her students’ test scores.

Principals, too, will be evaluated, but by the superintendent. The same criteria have been mandated by the Ohio legislature for them: half based on performance and half on the students’ growth measures. Teachers and principals will be rated either accomplished, proficient, developing or ineffective.

Any teacher rated ineffective, Riedthaler said, will be put on an individualized improvement plan.

The current state report cards — on which schools and school districts are rated Excellent with Distinction, Excellent, Effective, Continuous Improvement, Academic Watch or Academic Emergency — will be replaced by ones with A, B, C, D and F letter grades.

Although the state isn’t finished devising the report card — Riedthaler said the ODE is still taking public opinions on it on its website — the grades will be based on six criteria:

  • Achievement, against the state standards. This year Woodridge met all but one standard, to be rated Excellent with Distinction;
  • Gap closing, checking all demographic groups of students’ gains in reading and math;
  • Graduation rate, which will also get an A through F grade;
  • Progress, whether the student has achieved one year’s growth in one year;
  • K-3 literacy, whether kindergarteners through third-graders are reading at least at grade level; and
  • Prepared for success, whether students are ready for college and careers.

The overall grade for the school and/or district will be the composite of all six grades, although Riedthaler said the state has not yet announced how it will arrive at the composite.

Grades will begin in most categories in August 2013, according to the ODE’s site, but overall grades for the schools/districts will not be issued until August 2015.

In the panel discussion and question/answer session, Linda Fuline, superintendent of the Summit County Educational Service Center, encouraged citizens to contact their state legislators with their ideas about the new standards, assessments and report cards, since these have not been finalized yet.

The legislators “are good people, and they want good education — let them know your concerns,” she said.

Woodridge Treasurer Deanna Levenger also encouraged those present to contact state legislators about Gov. John Kasich’s proposed two-year budget, which is currently being debated in Columbus, since it provides inadequate funding to alleviate Woodridge’s need to rely on local property taxes to fund education that will meet these standards.

For more information, visit Woodridge’s site at www.woodridge.k12.oh.us or the ODE site at www.ode.state.oh.us.

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