Starting with the 2014-2015 school year, Sylvania School District students will learn fewer topics at more in-depth levels when preparing for standardized state testing, and will phase out paper testing in exchange for computerized exams.
The district has already started to learn how to implement the new guidelines, which is affecting not only Ohio schools, but other states across the country, Adam Fineske, executive director of curriculum and assessment for Sylvania Schools, told school officials during a school board meeting on Monday.
Forty-six states have elected to adopt what is being called common core standards for English, language arts and math for the 2014-2015 school year.
Mr. Fineske said the standards will create consistent guidelines across the U.S. that will describe what students should learn in each grade and in each subject - a major change from each state currently setting different standards with topics were not always taught at the same time.
The changes are expected to help students compete better in a “knowledge-based global economy,” and to better prepare them for college, he said, noting during his presentation today that “40 percent of Ohio high school graduates who go to an Ohio college need remedial coursework in English or math.”
Some of the changes for English and language arts include requiring students to present evidence that supports their written arguments, and spend more time reading, including more famous speeches and articles on world events and less fiction. In math, science and social studies,students will be tasked with digging deeper into topics, and those concepts will will be connected from one grade level to the next.
The change that has solicited the most feedback is creating the tests online, Mr. Fineske said. The state tests, currently called the Ohio Graduation Tests, will switch to online-only formats that will be created by the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, a 22-state consortium that create new assessments strictly in the areas of math and English. Online tests in social studies and science will be updated and created by the state of Ohio.
“No more test booklet, fill in the bubble, write in your name...” Mr. Fineske said. “...Those assessments will look very different.”
During the meeting, he showed examples of test questions and described them to members of the board and an audience of five community members. One of the questions, for example, asked students to click on words and drag them into a word box, to show the life cycle of a butterfly.
“Students will have to click on the word and drag it over, in order to get the answer correct. Most kids do that now,” Mr. Fineske said, acknowledging that many people have expressed worries about student ability to operate the tests correctly.
“...It's a huge, massive shift...” said Board vice president Jim Nusbaum. “...Now we're combining that with a different format and how to enter in your answer. I just think that's two big shifts and it's one thing to be able to generate the correct answer, it's another thing to move that answer onto the right place on the computer screen.”
But while there is some concern about the new format, Mr. Fineske said teachers have been preparing rigorously.
“As we prepare to be ready for this in Sylvania, we've been doing that throughout the course of this year already,” he said.
Contact Kelly McLendon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-206-0356 or on Twitter at @MyTownSylvania.