Students face proficiency tests

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 8, 2003

After months of preparation and intervention, the day of reckoning has arrived for several Lawrence Countians - and they are only in the fourth grade.

Throughout the state, fall proficiency testing for fourth-grade students began Monday and will end Friday. This year is also the first year for the Third Grade Reading Achievement test, which is being administered this week as well.

This will be the final year for fourth-grade proficiency testing as the state transitions from proficiency testing to achievement testing. This new system, according to a release from the Ohio Department of Education, aligns academic standards, model curricula, assessments and accountability. This system, established by House Bill 3 in August 2003, also fulfills federal education requirements established by the No Child Left Behind Act.

Email newsletter signup

Proficiency and achievement testing are similar, said J.C. Benton, a public relations manager for the Ohio Department of Education. The difference between the two is

while proficiency testing was more of a measurement, the achievement testing are designed for educators to improve their own strategies.

"We're working our tails off," said Principal Chris Mathes of South Point Elementary.

Teachers have been giving up their free time and school officials have been giving students incentives to succeed on the test, Mathes said. Students have also participated in intervention programs. Also, school officials have been trying to promote the test in a positive way to make the test a little less scary.

"We're encouraging the kids to do their best and try as hard as they can. We don't make this a negative thing," he said. "We don't tell them, 'You have to pass the test or else.' We don't think the kids are intimidated or fearful, but they do realize it's important.

In the Symmes Valley School District, preparing for the proficiency testing has been an effort for entire schools, not just the teachers teaching the grades that have to take the test, Superintendent Thomas Ben said.

"Obviously, a lot of intervention has taken place," he said. "Schools are using their entire staffs to prepare, not just the third or fourth grade. It's everybody."

An entire staff is needed for curriculum alignment, Ben said. This means that staff members work together to make sure that material is introduced at the right grade levels. With fourth-graders beginning testing in the fall, only six weeks of school have passed. This means that teachers in earlier grades need to prepare them.

For parents, the district is offering extra time for parents of fourth-graders. Evening parent-teacher conferences are scheduled for Nov. 6, but fourth-grade parents have an extra day on Nov. 7. This gives the parents more time to talk with their children's teachers, Ben said. During these conferences, the parents can be informed about changes in education. A variety of information for parents, can be found on the Ohio Department of Education's Web site at

"Our scores over the last several years have shown that we are meeting the challenges the state has set before us," Ben said. "We've shown continuous improvement, and every year, we feel that we've improved, and we're doing great things at our school."

Also, several high school students have been taking pilot versions of the Ohio Graduation Test's math portion this week. Students graduating after Sept. 15, 2006, will need to pass the new tests and meet curriculum requirements to receive a diploma.