School supers: HB 67 not needed locally

By David J. Coehrs -

At least several Fulton County school districts won’t be affected by a state bill passed in March that grants extended time for standardized testing.

Ohio’s substitute House Bill 67, which went into immediate effect after Governor Mike DeWine signed it in March, allows juniors and seniors a longer window during which to complete or retake standardized tests. It also permits them to graduate by earning an Ohio Means Jobs readiness seal along with minimum curriculum requirements. And it waives the state’s American history exam requirement.

HB 67 was introduced to cut some slack for high school students across Ohio whose education this year may have been blunted by online learning or other restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Swanton Local Schools Superintendent Chris Lake said students enrolled in courses requiring state tests will take them during the normal testing window.

“Having been in school all year long, our students are right where they need to be in order to take the end-of-course assessments,” he said. “Those students who have had issues keeping their grades up have been identified throughout the year by our data teams and given the appropriate interventions to help them succeed.”

Lake believes all students should have the chance to retake exams as many times as necessary, given the importance the state places on testing. “Imagine how ridiculous it is to have a student meet all the requirements for graduation, only to be told they can’t get a diploma because they were a few points short on a standardized test,” he said. “Tests which we know are deeply flawed, and whose passage rates do more to reflect socioeconomic factors in a community than a student’s actual ability.”

He champions the Ohio Means Jobs seal option to graduate, saying students should be regarded individually, with instruction that meets each one’s particular needs. He said state education officials, “in their infinite wisdom, create one-size-fits-all tests that only a certain segment of students are naturally going to be successful at. I agree with any plan that will allow for flexibility in getting kids to graduate.”

Because COVID interruptions and restructuring have caused setbacks for some students the school district has offered them a year-long intervention program. Lake said the program has shown positive results.

Fayette Local Schools will follow its normal schedule for state assessment. Superintendent Angela Belcher said because classes have been in session the entire school year, whether in-class or remotely, there’s no need for “extension through declining course grades. (O)ur students are progressing as expected – similar to past years.”

Belcher said students required to take end-of-course testing have always been permitted to retake the tests. And due to the interruptions and restrictions COVID-19 has placed on education, “I would like to see the news emphasize the fact that all of our (Fulton County) districts have been in session every day, all day, all year. This separates us, and potential issues and/or setbacks from districts who have been instructing remotely the entire year. This news is worthy of reporting when looking at the numerous orders, mandates, and restrictions we maneuvered to provide a consistent high-quality instruction to our students.”

Belcher said students in Fayette schools have not suffered setbacks during the pandemic that exceed any other normal school year.

Wauseon Exempted Village Schools have also been in regular session, and plan to give state assessments as usual. Superintendent Troy Armstrong said high school students have always been given multiple attempts to pass end-of-course exams.

He and Belcher agree that an Ohio Means Jobs readiness seal is not a short cut to graduation, saying it’s merely a state diploma seal students can use to qualify. “The requirements for this seal allow students to demonstrate they are ready to enter the workforce. It is not letting students off too easy,” he said.

Armstrong added that the school district’s Extended Learning Plan labels possible learning gaps and focuses on diagnostic assessments and staggering starts when school opens in late summer.

HB 67 will have a minimal effect on Archbold schools, Superintendent Jayson Selgo said. “We plan to continue the testing schedule as we have in previous years,” he said. “(But) generally speaking, I support and agree with any flexibility offered to students.”

He said while he believes all students in Ohio have been impacted by COVID-19, those in school districts offering virtual attendance or hybrid models will be much more negatively affected.

“In this regard students who attend Archbold Area Schools, and other districts in northwest Ohio that have remained in-person, will benefit greatly as compared to their peers throughout the state. This is a result of their school districts, communities, faculty, and the students themselves being committed to in-person learning,” Selgo said.

By David J. Coehrs

Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.

Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.