Monday, March 28, 2016

Testing Update from Greenville City Schools

by Laura Bemus, Assistant Superintendent

In February, 2016 districts across the state of Ohio received test data from the Ohio Department of Education for tests that were administered in April, 2015. After receiving A’s in Value-Added overall data in 2013 and 2014, Greenville City Schools received an F, according to the grades released by the Ohio Department of Education. Knowing that teaching and instruction methods have only improved during that time period, we became concerned about the testing method reliability.

What is value-added? Value-added measures, or growth measures, are measures used to estimate how much of a positive or negative effect individual teachers have on student learning during the course of a given school year, based on sophisticated statistical algorithms and standardized test results. Value-added progress is reported in Ohio based on testing in grades 4-8 in Math and Language Arts. The Ohio Department of Education states that, “Value-added analysis should help educators measure the impact that schools and teachers have on students’ academic progress rates from year to year and also that Ohio selected a value-added measure that should provide educators with information on how they can use data to focus instruction”. Both of these purposes have not been met with the 2014-15 school year testing and data. The information provided is not useful for us to focus instruction. It is comparable to a patient going to the Dr. for an illness in April, 2015 and getting the results and prescription for healing the illness in February, 2016.

Our concern for our students in Greenville, and across the State, has caused us to collaborate and research the data. Preliminary research using “similar districts” as determined by the Ohio Department of Education reveals a similar pattern with a correlation of changed testing format. In 2014-15 Districts were able to choose if they wanted to begin testing students online or continue using paper and pencil to test. We were also told by the Ohio Department of Education that every district in the State would be required to use computers for online testing beginning in 2015-2016, which is no longer true. However, the data indicates that districts that tested online had results that were greatly impacted for value-added reporting.

Michael Molnar, Executive Director of Educational Services for the Amherst Schools has the information from 438 schools and his data can be found at . The conclusion from the extensive research is:
“The data proves that the differing formats of last year’s PARCC testing greatly impacted and altered the value added data. Paper-only districts performed better than online-only districts. Many factors could contribute to this disparity but by comparing online testing districts to paper testing districts, the Ohio Department of Education is not providing accurate and fair information to the public. The 2015 value added grades released by the Ohio Department of Education are unreliable and invalid.”

The Ohio legislature should use these statistics to justify passing legislation to select one testing format (online or paper) for all future testing to ensure that all school districts are being compared and assessed equitable. Our results arrived after the deadline to declare how we will test students this spring, so many districts; including Greenville City Schools are going to give the tests online again in 2016, knowing that this caused unreliable and invalid data in 2015.

We should be accountable for achievement and growth for our students! We work diligently to make a difference and help students learn and will continue to do so every day. Our MAP scores from testing students in grades K – 8 three times per year are used in Math and Language Arts to frequently monitor learning growth (value-added), set goals with students and remediate or enrich instruction. The MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) scores are nationally normed for reliability. Our accountability is constantly monitored and not just based on one test each year.

At a news conference on Thursday Feb. 22nd in Columbus State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo) and State Board of Education member A.J. Wagner urged the public to ignore this year’s results, saying they’re from a flawed test that the state has already abandoned. Unfortunately the data was late, inaccurate and harmful to the children and communities across the state of Ohio.

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