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Several Ohio groups oppose bill to freeze school assessments during pandemic

By The Center Square

COLUMBUS — As Ohio schools, parents, students and teachers continue to navigate through COVID-19 restrictions, adjustments and challenges, the public needs more information about how schools are performing, not less, according to a state business group.
Ohio Excels, a business coalition focused on educational outcomes for state students, sent its president, Lisa Gray, to testify before the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday, asking that Ohio not waive assessments for the next two years, which is called for by Senate Bill 358.

“During this current crisis, it is more important than ever to know how well our students are learning to measure their progress,” Gray testified. “This is why Ohio Excels has serious concerns about SB 358.”

Gray was joined by written testimony from the ACT, a college entrance exam administered to every Ohio junior, and The College Board. Also, Chad Aldis, vice-president for Ohio Policy and Advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, testified cancelling this school year’s state assessment would wrong.

“First, the shift to distance learning this spring combined with continued uncertainty this fall makes it more important than ever to gauge where students are academically,” he testified. “Second, it’s critical for parents to get objective information on their children’s progress.”

State Sen. Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo, ranking member on the committee, disagreed, saying students don’t have enough time with teachers and testing creates even more stress during a stressful time.

“It’s time to trust the educators rather than a standardized test,” Fedor said.

The Ohio Education Association, among other education groups and school systems, have previously testified in favor of the bill, which also freezes district report cards and freezes EdChoice.

That, according to St.Clairsville-Richland City School District board member Jim Cook, would have a significant impact on schools that have been mislabeled.

“Our school has been labeled as ‘failing’ based on building grade data from the 2014 report card,” Cook testified. “Since that time, our scores have improved, yet due to previous safe harbor provisions, those scores weren’t counted, leading us to remain categorized as ‘failing.’ SB 358 will continue to keep us on that list, with no way to get out.”

Committee chairman Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, said she expects the bill to move quickly.