See updated post.  Proposed testing limit in House Bill is actually four hours per assessment.

Finally there is an aspect of Common Core that we can all agree on – there is far too much standardized testing.

In response to the overwhelming cry from parents, teachers, and administrators, Representatives Anne Gonzales and Andrew Brenner sponsored a bill to reduce the number of hours Ohio students can spend on state achievement testing and graduation testing to four hours per student per school year.th

The bill affects the PARCC tests which measure student performance on the Common Core standards in English and math and the American Institutes for Research (AIR) tests which measure student performance on Ohio’s science and social studies standards.

The bill originally submitted as HB 629 was amended to HB 228 and was voted out of committee yesterday. It is headed for a House vote as early as this week.

Gongwer News Service reports Republicans Bill Hayes, Ryan Smith and Andy Thompson dissented on the Committee vote, but Democrats joined with the remaining Republicans to report HB 228 out of Committtee.

Gongwer noted that Rep. Smith explained that he appreciates the efforts behind the bill, but that he would have liked to have heard more debate on the issue. Rep. Thompson said “much more examination of the testing” needs to be done especially with regard to personally identifiable information.

HB 228 is not the perfect response to the testing issue (student privacy in connection to testing must be addressed as well), but it is finally a response to the amount of testing and a reasonable one. Fours hours should suffice to give the Ohio Department of Education a fair idea as to whether a student has achieved grade level mastery of Ohio’s education standards.

More importantly, HB 228 will weaken the stranglehold PARCC testing will have on Ohio students. The current PARCC tests average about 10 hours per student per school year.  (AIR tests average about 3 hours.)  Schools and teachers will be measured by student performance on state achievement tests so districts are incentivized to schedule a significant amount of classroom time teaching to the tests.

State achievement tests given by PARCC and AIR are not the only standardized tests students will see in a given year. Testing varies by grade level and school district, but students are also given diagnostic testing, testing for gifted status and creativity, and national assessment testing, on top of state achievement and graduation tests.

This testing adds up. Roben Frentzle, an elementary school principal in the Gahanna-Jefferson School District testified to the House Education Committee as a proponent of HB 228. She told the Committee that third graders in her district will be subjected to 23 hours of testing this school year.

Jill Schuler, Board of Education President of the Gahanna-Jeferson Public School District and a HB 228 proponent as well, said that the district estimates it will lose 30 days of instruction preparing for and giving standardized tests this year. Ms. Schuler also pointed out that the results of these tests are often not available until months later diminishing the usefulness of the tests to classroom teachers. Ms. Schuler said that the data from tests taken in April/May of last school year will not be available until midway through this school year (December 2014). By then, students are well into the next grade level.

Given Ms. Frentzle and Ms. Schuler’s testimonies, the State of Ohio will still have plenty of work to do to reduce standardized testing once HB 228 reins in the time allotted for the PARCC and AIR tests. PARCC makes up only about 10 of the 23 hours of testing third graders at Gahanna-Jefferson will undergo this year.  Third graders are not given AIR tests.

One party did offer opponent testimony to HB 228, Chad Aldis of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Fordham has been a major driver of Common Core receiving large sums of money from the Gates Foundation.

Gongwer points out that Mr. Aldis was concerned that HB 228 could “unduly impose limits on the new (PARCC) assessments” and Aldis said the “state accountability system is also at play.” When talking about the accountability system, Aldis means student data tracking and reporting, a key driver of the PARCC tests and a major inititative of Race to the Top.

After reading Frentzle and Schuler’s testimony it is clear that standardized testing policy in Ohio has evolved from a hodge podge of local, state, and federal mandates with no understanding or even concern of how the resulting policy affects students.

Before we can move forward with a reasonable standardized testing policy in Ohio, we need to draw a line in the sand by placing a limit on the number of hours standardized testing takes up in a student’s school year, and then begin to remove the extraneous tests that may give a bureaucrat a job, but provide no educational benefit to the students of Ohio.

Find Roben Frentzle’s testimony to the House Education Committee HERE.

Find Jill Schuler’s testimony to the House Education Committee HERE.