MARIETTA - Local educators are taking a wait-and-see position when it comes to the state's decision to replace the Ohio Graduation Test.
Taken by sophomores and juniors, the test accounts for 10 of the 26 indicators used in assessing schools and districts on the state report cards, which are also headed toward a major overhaul. Passage of all five subject areas is required before a student can graduate.
By the 2014-15 school year, the test will give way to end-of-course exams in 10 specific subjects, along with a nationally standardized college readiness test. The new tests will be more rigorous while also focusing on college- and career-readiness, said Michael Sawyers, acting superintendent of public instruction with the the Ohio Department of Education.
"This is a major step forward in our reform efforts to ensure all Ohio students have the knowledge and skills necessary to leave school remediation-free and ready for their post-secondary experience in higher education or workforce training," he said in a recent news release.
Waterford High School Principal Randy Shrider said he agrees with the overall goals of the testing, but he fears that too often the results end up being "punitive" rather than helping schools and students improve.
"It's just not clear to me that the process that they're using is doing anything but sorting students and schools," he said.
Subjects with end-of-course exams starting in 2014-15
* English I, II and III
* Algebra I and II
* Physical science
* American history
* American government
Some local educators have said that while testing can show strengths and weaknesses, the results tie too much of a school or district's performance to how students do in a single testing period rather than what they're learning overall.
"We're moving toward some things that may be helpful with 'value added,'" Shrider said, referring to the measure of whether students are learning a year's worth of material in a year's time. "But it's still not clear to me that the process is dedicated to moving students forward, which is what we all want."
Frontier Local Superintendent Bruce Kidder said the concept of the end-of-course exams isn't a major change.
"In those courses we're looking for, we already have final exams," he said.
The tests will be based on common core curriculum materials, which the district would already be teaching, Kidder said.
"It kind of eliminates the need for teachers to teach to the test because the curriculum will mirror the test," said John Charlton, associate director of communications for the Ohio Department of Education.
Unlike the test, end-of-course exams would count toward a student's grades.
One of the biggest concerns Kidder has is that the state is moving toward having all of those tests on computers instead of pencil and paper. Th minimum technology requirements might be hard to meet, Kidder said.
"That will be a fairly significant cost to the district to upgrade to the level of technology that they will require," Kidder said.
And with only one computer lab at Frontier High and Middle School, finding time and space for students to take the tests could prove to be a challenge.
The Department of Education Charlton is assessing what technology is currently available to districts, Charlton said.
Giving a college-readiness test early in the sophomore year will help determine which students are struggling while there is still plenty of time to help them, Charlton said. It can also determine which students might be ready to move on to college-level courses so they can graduate from high school with college credit already on their transcripts.
Kidder said that would be helpful if it comes to pass.
"I'll reserve judgment until I see the actual exam," he said.