This week is Ohio Graduation Test Week, where all over the state all sophomores will be taking this required test for graduation. Students must pass all 5 sections in order to graduate from high school: Reading, Math, Science, Social Studies and Science, one section each day with a testing window of 2.5 hours.
Soon these tests will be replaced by the New Generation assessments that eventually students will be required to pass, consisting of 9 end-of-course assessments and accruing a certain number of quality points in order to graduation from high school. Since these tests will be phased in, some teachers are currently preparing students for two different assessments.
For those of us directly involved in education at any level, we are aware of the amount of testing and accountability facing schools today. This spring, our high school will be administering the OGT, Advanced Placement tests, International Baccalaureate assessments, ACT (we are a pilot school for the new online) and also a pilot school for two of the Next Generation assessments.
As a school, welcome the new accountability standards and will work our best, as we always have, to do the very best we can every day to prepare students for any and all assessments mandated by our district, state or nation.
Still, I hope we never lose sight of the stress level these assessments place on students, parents, staff and schools.
Rick Stiggins, educational reformist, reminds us to "put the faces on the data," as a way of reminding us that every test score represents a student. Testing, both classroom and state and national mandates, is personal, and we know as educators that many students are trying to overcome insurmountable obstacles in order to pass assessments.
But do the legislators and public, particularly those who have no current students or who has never had students in school, know and understand that?
What about the senior who does not have English as their primary language who is down to their last try before graduation to pass? And that this senior has a two-year-old child and works two jobs outside of the school day in order to support her and her family. While we would hope that she is devoting all of her time this week to preparing for the Ohio Graduation Test, the reality is that life supersedes testing. This student works very hard at her school work and is determined to pass, and yet her score will be impacted by obstacles that perhaps the mandates cannot figure into her score.
What about the other sophomore who has missed over 30 days of school this year due to medical issues? Not only is it difficult for a 15-year-old to spend high school at numerous medical and surgical appointments while enduring uncomfortable medical procedures, but he is still responsible for passing all 5 sections of the OGT. If the student even attends all 5 days this week, it will be the first complete week of school attended this school year.
Students with drug and alcohol abuse problems, mental health issues, language barriers, test anxiety, attendance problems, legal issues, and so on, permeate high schools today. We have worked extremely hard this year preparing students for the OGT, holding parent information meetings, adding extra preparation sessions after school, aligning curriculum and modeling our assessments in the same format as students will find on this important test. Still, we will have students test who are facing battles of which we are aware and battles of which we have no knowledge.
And yet when our scores and building report card becomes public, few will know the stories -- and faces-- behind the data.