Sunday, March 18, 2018

Stebelton Eyes MBR Fixes, Testing Overview for Lame Duck; Fedor Wants Longer Safe Harbor

Revisiting graduation exams for science, expanding Cincinnati's community learning center model and taking a holistic look at the entire testing regimen will be matters of priority in education policy during the lame-duck session, Rep. Gerald Stebelton (R-Lancaster) told Hannah News.

Stebelton, chairman of the House Education Committee, also listed defeating HB597 (Huffman-Thompson), the Common Core repeal measure, as a top priority. He says he has a strong majority, including a majority of his own caucus, on his side. Moving beyond that debate will enable a new discussion on the overall scope and focus of K-12 assessments, he said. Common Core critics who favor passing HB597 have made rolling back the testing frenzy a key part of their arguments.

Meanwhile, his committee's lead Democrat and the Ohio Education Association are calling for a three-year delay in any "high-stakes" decisions based on testing and are endorsing the idea of a testing overhaul.

Stebelton said HB629 (Brenner-Gonzales), a proposal to cap testing at four hours per year, is a good starting point for the discussion, though he thinks it goes too far. He said he'd prefer a "comprehensive" testing regimen that avoids duplication and provides more time for teaching and learning.

"I think the problem is we have so many different kinds of tests. I think we need to decide on what are the legitimate tests that we should be doing, and get a plan so we implement that over a period of several years," Stebelton said.

"Once we get past this [HB]597 bill, I think we can focus on the merits of the testing process, the testing procedure, the amount of time, which tests are the best, deciding whether we're going to use PARCC [the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers] ... then we can focus on streamlining the whole system," he said.

Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo), ranking minority member of the House Education Committee, is sponsoring legislation for a three-year "safe harbor" on school performance rankings and teacher evaluations based on student achievement. Introduced Monday, her HB642 includes an emergency clause, meaning it would take effect immediately if enacted.

The education mid-biennium review legislation, HB487 (Brenner), enacted a similar safe harbor lasting a year.

The Ohio Education Association (OEA) immediately backed Fedor's proposal, which aligns with a recent vote of the union's representative assembly for a three-year delay.

“We urge state lawmakers to hit the pause button and determine which tests are actually needed and which are also appropriate for the grade level at which they’re being administered," OEA President Becky Higgins said in a statement.

One state-required test, the end-of-course exam in science used for high school graduation requirements, is in line for changes in the lame-duck session, Stebelton said. The current exam in physical science should be swapped out for one in biology, which aligns better to courses most students have taken, the chairman said. He also acknowledged the need to address the testing timeline for students with block schedule classes.

Sen. Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering), the Senate Education Committee chairwoman, also has endorsed the idea of switching from physical science to biology, as has State Board of Education President Debe Terhar. (See The Hannah Report, 9/9/14, 9/15/14).

Lehner, however, did not respond to messages seeking comment about her lame-duck priorities.

The House chairman also said lawmakers need to clean up some ambiguity in HB487 about the use of calculators with paper-and-pencil versions of new assessments.

Stebelton said he'd also like to push for passage of HB460, which would enable other schools to duplicate Cincinnati's community learning center model, which embeds services like health care and counseling in a school building. His committee passed the bill in May but it has not yet faced a vote in the full House.

"In some school districts you need more than just a school. You need perhaps a medical clinic, perhaps a dental clinic, perhaps a day care center, or whatever," he said.

Stebelton said he's heard rumblings about seeking further changes to the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES), which was recently modified in HB487 to lessen evaluations of high-performing teachers and make student achievement account for slightly less of evaluations.

"We've delayed the high stakes end of that for another year, so we'll just see what people want to do ... but I don't think we're going to change OTES dramatically," he said.
Story originally published in The Hannah Report on October 21, 2014.  Copyright 2014 Hannah News Service, Inc.

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