#OhioGradCrisis, Education, Ohio

Why I Cannot Support More Graduation “Pathways”

We met with a handful of Ohio Senators last week. Since it matters for this discussion’s sake, 6 of the 8 we talked with are Republicans. Not one of them disagreed that we need a solution for our Class of 2018. Not one of them defended the nightmare they have created for our now seniors. But, when it came down to it, they did not support the logical and humane solution for our kids with their votes.

We’ve discussed ad-nauseum the impending graduation crisis for Ohio’s now seniors. In Wednesday’s vote, state senators had an opportunity to provide relief to our students through “safe harbor.” The amendment offered would allow students in the Class of 2018 to use course grades for the seven content areas in lieu of standardized state tests to earn points toward the required minimum of 18. This amendment was tabled on a party line vote of 24-9.

Instead, the amendment which remains in the Senate’s version of the budget bill would require students to jump through even more hoops to meet graduation requirements. After changing tests in three of the last four years and changing the cut scores for passage with a new vendor, after 12 years of learning and hard work in their classes, after taking seven end of course state tests (and retakes for any with scores of 2 or 1, plus their required remediation), these seniors could now be faced with two additional hoops to jump through in order to earn their diploma.

While I am glad these new, unnecessary hoops remove the burden of scoring 18 points through the seven standardized tests, I am irate that students will still be required to retake any state tests for which they scored a 2 or 1. Though they need not earn a passing score, they must serve the testing gods. This is the definition of state-sanctioned educational malpractice.

Some claim the new pathways somehow “soften” the state’s graduation requirements. To them, I’d offer the following, albeit imperfect, analogy:

If each of the four years of high school are the leg of a relay and the team is your diploma, here’s a look into that race. In the first leg, your time is measured by PARCC, so results take over a year to determine and be reported to you. Meanwhile, you’re trucking along in the second leg, and it is announced that your time will be measured by AIR. You also have to stop intermittently along this stretch because you need to go back and recomplete the first leg of the race, this time measured by AIR. As you enter the third leg, you learn you have to go back to leg 2 for a new AIR measurement with a higher cut score while also needing to make up time you’ve lost in the overall race. Somewhere along the third leg, you learn that you still haven’t met the required AIR time from the first leg and must go back again to the start. Now it’s time for the final leg. Hopefully, you’ve made it back to this point by now to continue on your race. You are almost there! Wait, what’s that? This leg contains a maze of obstacles, from which you must choose two to complete successfully. Each obstacle will take most, if not all of your final leg to complete. Oh, and all those restarts, they don’t matter now, but you still have to go back to leg 2, though that time won’t count in the end. See, wasn’t that so easy?

I wish I could think of an analogy that actually fits this scenario our kids are in, but I cannot. Because it is utterly ridiculous. Instead of admitting their mistakes in the regulations of the relay, the majority party seems to want to continue this charade. Meanwhile, our students pay the ultimate price when the race is stacked against them.

#FixItOrOwnIt #OhioGradCrisis

Brittany Alexander

Ohio BAT and Educator

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#OhioGradCrisis, Education, Ohio, Public Schools, School Board, Schools

Safe Harbor for 2018

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Chairman Hite, Vice Chair Sykes, and members of the Senate Finance – Primary and Secondary Education Subcommittee,

Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony today. My name is Brittany Alexander and I am a public school educator of (almost) 20 years. I am an education activist, serving in leadership roles in both National and Ohio BATs (Badass Teachers Association). I strongly urge that the subcommittee include language offering a “safe harbor” from standardized testing requirements to specific students in the Class of 2018 to Substitute HB 49.

To my knowledge, there is not state-level data on where students land in relation to earning a minimum of 18 points in the End of Course (EOC) exam pathway, explaining the variance in reports of the number of students whose graduation will be negatively affected. The recommendations sent forth from the State of Ohio Board of Education are commendable in that they reduce the role of standardized testing in graduation requirements. However, even with these recommendations in place, there will still be some number of students who land between being able to meet 2 out of the 6 recommendations and earning 18 points on EOC exams. Those students who are between these two options, and have met all other graduation requirements, will still be in the same situation they are in now: an untenable one.

The Class of 2018 is not only the first to be held to the pathway graduation requirements, but they are also the only people in Ohio to be accountable (i.e. without “safe harbor”) for PARCC assessments they took during their freshman year. In an effort to “make up” points needed for graduation, students with a score of 1 or 2 on any PARCC assessment have to retake their EOC exams with American Institutes of Research (AIR) assessments. Educators know that these retakes have a high cost of lost instructional time.

The “safe harbor” for which I am advocating is a short-term solution intended to help specific students in the Class of 2018. However, it is important to note that Ohio is one of only 14 states that currently require exit exams for high school graduation. In the long-term, I advocate that we rid Ohio’s students of EOC exams tied to graduation requirements. To foster and develop the skills students need beyond their K-12 years, we have to switch our focus away from high-stakes standardized tests.

I ask you to consider my testimony and provide “safe harbor” from EOC tests to students who will land in between the recommendations from the State Board and the requirements of the EOC exam pathway. Their very future is in your hands. Thank you again for your time and consideration.

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