MOUNT VERNON — Like it or not, students in Ohio’s public schools must pass standardized tests in reading, math, writing, science and social studies in order to receive a high school diploma. The Ohio Graduation Tests, which were developed to comply with state law and federal No Child Left Behind mandates, were given to sophomores during the first part of March. Some juniors and seniors who had not previously achieved proficient scores on one or more tests also participated in the March round of testing.
The Ohio Department of Education has released preliminary results of the OGT given in March. The data show how well area sophomores did on the test, which covers material students should know by the end of their senior year. Sophomores failing one or more parts of the test will have at least six more chances to retake the test.
The results listed in the accompanying chart were obtained from the ODE Web site and show the percentage of students scoring proficient or above in each of the five subject areas tested. This information has not been verified by districts and schools.
Districts have 30 days to review results and request score appeals and verifications; also, the test contractors have 30 days to respond to appeals. Verified and complete data are reported in the district report cards.
“As always we are very proud of the accomplishment of our students,” said East Knox superintendent John Marschhausen. “We continue to see improvement on the OGT and Ohio Achievement Test assessments. We are a learning community and we must look at what works and what isn’t working. We must, and will, continue to improve.”
Marschhausen said it is important to remember that these assessments are only a snapshot of student achievement.
“I believe the state assessments are important, but they are only one piece of a complex process for determining student progress. The focus should be the instruction and academic preparation. Too often we focus on the outcome without looking at the process. When it comes to schools, we should be focused on the student and the instruction we provide.”
To focus on that, school districts closely scrutinize the state assessment test data in addition to reviewing the overall test results. At Highland, for example, every student will be listed along with his or her test score.
“We will color code their score, and detail areas, benchmark areas, that may be instructional areas where we want to focus our attention,” Superintendent Tim Hilborn explained. “We will then get the release questions from the tests and see how our students did on particular questions. We will also develop professional development plans based on our apparent weaknesses.”
“I would be hard pressed to find a school that did not spend a lot of time with their data trying to figure out ways that they can help their students and staff,” said Mount Vernon’s superintendent, Steve Short. “You look for different things that might show a trend over a couple of years. And you look at the particular class and how the class has performed along the way in each subject area.
“One of the things you look at is ongoing assessments, how do you assess learning on a day-to day basis. That becomes a big part of not only teaching, but assessing what you’ve taught, and then making adjustments and decisions about instructional content and methods.”
Short complimented the Mount Vernon sophomores and their teachers for all the work they put in to achieve an overall 72.6 percent passage rate.
“It just shows a lot of hard work by a lot of people,” he said. “I really believe that they have done a nice job at the high school with the writing part. That is, students have techniques that they use when writing, and they use them across the board in all their classes. Writing is a major part of the OGT, and all the students are using the same type of techniques in their writing, and that has become part of what they do in school. When you practice the same thing all the time, it tends to make you better.”
“One of the changes that have been made in the OGT tests is that every academic area tested now includes reading and writing skills, even mathematics,” said Sam Shuman, MVHS assistant principal. “We looked very closely at the data from last year and found that a number of students on the previous tests were not answering the long and short answers, or all parts of two- and three-part questions. We examined how the state grades the short and long answers, and kind of adjusted our classroom grading to reflect that. We used professional development training to help the teachers understand the process, and our teachers willingly worked individually with students who needed that. We are very pleased this year that students were able to understand better what was expected on the tests.”
Passing all five portions of the OGT is only one of the requirements for graduation in the state of Ohio. Students must still earn the number of credit hours needed to meet CORE curriculum mandates.