Ohio Delays ESSA Accountability Plan as it Ponders How to Improve Education

State leaders will review testing practices and set a five-year vision for education in Ohio.

by Patrick O'Donnell, The Plain Dealer, Cleveland / March 14, 2017 0

(TNS)  — COLUMBUS, Ohio -- State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria will delay finalizing Ohio's education and accountability plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) until September, he announced this afternoon.

DeMaria said the delay, which educators across Ohio have called for, will allow more time to review statewide testing and other issues before finishing the plan.

"This also will allow more time to ensure that feedback received on the draft template can be considered carefully," DeMaria said in announcing the delay.

DeMaria told the state school board that he had not intended the plan to be divisive, but it had become so.

At the same school board meeting, DeMaria also announced plans for a detailed review of state testing by the fall, as well as plans to suggest changes in teacher evaluations.

He also announced that he is creating a series of committees to create a five-year vision for education in the state, separate from the ESSA plan.

In addition, a separate workgroup has been meeting the last few months to recommend a change in the state's high school graduation requirements -- a key driver of the tests students must take -- by next month.

DeMaria's decision drew immediate praise from the Ohio Federation of Teachers, board members, and from State Rep. Andrew Brenner and State Sen. Peggy Lehner, who chair the education committees of the state legislature.

Educators across Ohio have blasted the Ohio Department of Education in hearings this month for not listening to residents' demands for less testing and simpler state report cards in the draft ESSA plan.

In a hearing with legislators last week, representatives of the Cleveland, Shaker Heights and Twinsburg school districts joined Akron-area superintendents and officials from other parts of the state in calling for a delay on those plans.

They wanted the plans, required to be filed with the U.S. Department of Education to be adjusted and filed in September, not early April as ODE had planned.

Joining that call were the state's two large teachers unions, the Ohio Education Association and the Ohio Federation of Teachers.

Those voices came on top of already loud complaints from districts in Lorain and western Cuyahoga County that the state's proposed ESSA plan is lacking.

Their demands, though not unanimous in every case, are:

- Cut standardized testing to the federal minimum of 17 tests over the kindergarten through 12th grade years. The plan keeps the 24 tests Ohio has now, despite ESSA allowing a reduction.

- If not cutting tests, at least make them more useful to teachers and students.

- Drop the A through F grades on state report cards in favor of less judgmental and more descriptive terms like "meets standards" or "meets expectations."

- Make some of the report card measures like "K-3 Literacy" and "Prepared for Success" easier to understand.

Educators told the Joint Education Oversight Committee, a bi-partisan panel of Ohio House and Senate members, that they are most frustrated that they participated in surveys and hearings last year to give input on the ESSA plan, only to have ODE ignore their wishes.

"We are alarmed that the feedback gathered during these stakeholder meetings does not appear to have been included in Ohio's plan," written testimony from the Akron Area Superintendents Association states.

See the full testimony here.

Twinsburg Superintendent Kathryn Powers agreed.

"I was surprised to find the draft plan lacking in the feedback provided during those stakeholder sessions," she says in her written testimony.

Click here to see Powers' testimony.

ESSA replaces many federal requirements for states and schools under the old No Child Left Behind laws with more limited rules and new freedom for states to set their own direction.

ODE prepared its new plan and just finished gathering feedback on it.

©2017 The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.