Area schools preparing for state tests

By MAX FILBY
STAFF WRITER
With less than a month before state testing begins, some area school districts are cramming in a few extra lessons and hours of class time.
For students in grades three through eight, testing for the Ohio Achievement Assessments can start as early as April 21, according to the state.
After school officials expressed concern about having less time to teach because of winter cancellations, the state extended the end of the testing period by one week to May 16.
“All I can ask … is for our teachers to fight the good fight and teach to the best of their abilities,” said McComb Superintendent Meri Skilliter.
This winter, McComb had the most canceled days in the area with a record 17 days called off. McComb tried to offset some of its lost days by sending students home with “blizzard bags” or online lessons, which doubled as makeup days and Ohio Achievement Assessments preparation.
“Obviously, we are concerned anytime we lose instructional time,” Skilliter said. “We continue to keep a laser-like focus on the (state) standards, while avoiding teaching any extraneous material.”
The irregularity of school weeks this winter is something that can create more anxiety when it comes to statewide testing, said Nathaniel von der Embse, an assistant professor at East Carolina University who spoke about test anxiety at the University of Findlay this month.
“Limited instruction is definitely going to have a big effect,” von der Embse said. “But, at the same time, intensifying drilling and cramming can create a lot of increased pressure, too.”
Whether the cause is snow days or something else, von der Embse said the ideal solution to test anxiety doesn’t exist yet.
“We’re all chasing after that golden goose,” he said.
Arcadia School is trying to combat anxiety by taking advantage of the extended testing window for students. Like McComb, Arcadia is using “blizzard bags” and online programming to make up calamity days and to help prepare students for assessments.
Arcadia will now be taking the achievement tests during the week of May 5 rather than April 21, Superintendent Laurie Walles said. “The teachers are working diligently with students as they attempt to offset the 10 calamity days and two-hour delays.”
State Superintendent Richard Ross expanded the testing window in February, making the first three weeks available for testing and the last week open for makeup testing. Some educators have worried that delayed testing could result in delayed results, but the state has told districts it will try to quicken the grading process.
Findlay City Schools is taking a different approach altogether. Although nothing has been made official, the district is looking to add hour-long segments onto 10 days in April to make up for lost days and allow more time for test preparation.
The district would add an hour to the end of days on April 8-10, April 15-17, April 22-24 and one other day that month, to make up remaining snow days while also preparing for state assessments.
So far, the school board has only approved a makeup schedule that would keep students in school through the first week of June.
“Our main concern is getting in that face time before state testing starts,” Superintendent Dean Wittwer said this week.
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