18 third graders retake state exam

BARLOW -A group of third grade students at Barlow-Vincent Elementary recently completed retesting of the Ohio Academic Assessment of Reading and Mathematics after their first round of testing was invalidated by the Ohio Department of Education for inconsistencies during the initial test.

Approximately 18 students in teacher Kelly Venham’s third-grade class completed the retesting Wednesday, confirmed Warren Local Schools Superintendent Tom Gibbs.

The initial testing, which took place April 23 and 24, came under scrutiny when a parent notified the school that a student had made a comment about the teacher helping or being helpful during the test, said Gibbs.

“In looking into it, it is very clear that the teacher did not explicitly give students answers or help students get correct answers. There is no indication whatsoever that the teacher did anything to that level,” said Gibbs.

Rather an investigation conducted by the school district indicated that Venham made “minor mistakes creating the ideal testing environment,” he said.

Barlow-Vincent Elementary Principal Stephanie Starcher confirmed that the Ohio Department of Education is conducting its own investigation into the administration of the testing, a procedure which is part of protocol.

“Our job as administrators is to make sure these tests are administered in the most stringent environment as set forth by ODE,” said Starcher.

Some of the expectations for a standardized testing environment are that students do not talk to one another, that they do not walk around the classroom and that they work completely independently, said Gibbs.

The school district has already conducted its own investigation into the matter, taking statements from each child and meeting with Venham, who has worked for the district since 1996.

Venham has been removed from administering standardized tests and will be required to go through more stringent training in regard to standards for test taking, said Gibbs.

She is still teaching, he said.

“If this was a more significant concern, we might put a teacher on administrative leave, but in this case that would be a misuse of taxpayer funds in my opinion. It’s pretty clear that the teacher has not done anything purposeful or grossly unethical,” he said.

The Ohio Department of Education could not confirm an ongoing investigation, said John Charlton, ODE’s associate director of communications.

If a violation is found, previous tests administered by that teacher are a concern, he said, but added that he did not know if ODE would go so far as to investigate previously administered tests.

Gibbs said there have never been previous concerns reported about Venham’s administration of tests.

“She’s an excellent teacher. She has an excellent reputation,” he said.

The school is withholding any decision regarding disciplinary measures until ODE finishes its investigation, said Gibbs.

Gibbs estimated the retesting cost at $900, but added that it has not been determined if the district or state will be responsible for that sum.

“Typically if there is a reason to readminister, it would be paid for by the district if it is their fault,” Charlton said.