By KATHRYNE RUBRIGHT
What’s the purpose of all the testing?
Findlay High School Principal Craig Kupferberg plans to ask that question at a future meeting of Ohio’s new graduation requirements committee, which met for the first time Wednesday to begin its task of making a recommendation on those requirements.
“If these tests are supposed to improve instruction and get our students more prepared for college, I don’t think it’s doing that,” said Kupferberg, who was recommended to State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria for the group by the Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators.
He pointed to ACT scores as evidence: from the 1998-99 school year to 2015-16, the average composite score on the college readiness test in Ohio has increased just six-tenths of a point, from 21.4 to 22.
Instead, Kupferberg explained, districts have repeated the same cycle several times since the early 1990s: A new statewide test is introduced. Students score poorly. Their teachers and administrators adjust curriculum. Scores improve. The test no longer seems rigorous enough, so the state rolls out a new one.
This happened with the ninth grade proficiency test, the tenth grade proficiency test and the Ohio Graduation Test, he said.
Under the latest requirements, the class of 2018 has three ways to qualify for graduation, but Kupferberg doesn’t expect that having more options will help. About half of the students who are juniors this school year are in danger of not graduating, he said. Findlay’s graduation rate is usually around 90 percent.
The first way they can graduate is by scoring 18 or more points on seven end-of-year exams. That requires scores of 3 (proficient) or better on at least four of the tests.
But the first time the geometry test was administered, the passage rate was in the low- to mid-twenties.
“The goal, for some reason — and I don’t know why, to me it seems arbitrary — is they wanted 47 percent of our students to score proficient,” Kupferberg said. “So by using the end-of-course exams you’re artificially setting up your graduation rate to be somewhere around 50 percent.”
Another way to graduate is to earn “remediation-free” scores on the ACT or SAT. Kupferberg, a former math teacher, pointed out that scores in that subject again are not high enough. In the 18 years he had data for, the average statewide math score fluctuated between 21 and 22, but never exceeded 22 — the remediation-free score students need to meet.
A third path to a high school diploma is to get an industry-recognized career credential and a score of 13 or better on the WorkKeys assessment.
But 2018 is too soon for Millstream Career Center and other vocational schools to prepare students for that route.
“We can’t meet the demand right now,” Kupferberg said. “We’ll get up to speed, we’ll adjust things, we’ll do things like we did on the OGTs, the proficiency tests and things before so we can get there, but it’s going to take a while and it’s not there for the class of 2018.”
With less than a year and a half until the class of 2018 graduates, the state doesn’t have long to make a change, if it chooses to do so.
This committee, voted into existence in December by the state board of education, will meet every two weeks until April, when DeMaria makes a recommendation to the board.
DeMaria’s recommendation “could be what we recommend, it could be nothing what we recommend, and it could be a combination of both,” Kupferberg said.
The solution won’t necessarily be to get rid of testing.
“A lot of people say ‘you’re teaching to the test, you’re teaching to the test,'” said Kupferberg, but he sees that as a “hollow criticism.”
“If you go to a driver’s ed class, I would hope that they would teach you in a way that you would pass the driver’s ed test,” he said. “If you’re in college trying to be a doctor, I would hope that they would teach you so that you could pass the MCAT so you can be a doctor.”
Kupferberg said he has been encouraged by DeMaria’s willingness to listen to committee members, among which are superintendents, principals, vocational school representatives, state school board members, a student and state lawmakers.
“He and I had a conversation one evening that lasted a good 20 minutes, prior to the meeting ever getting started. He’s reaching out, he wants to hear what people are thinking,” Kupferberg said.
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