Huffman: K-12 superintendents seek fewer mandates


By Jim Provance - The Toledo Blade



COLUMBUS — Arguing that superintendents are often better positioned to make judgment calls than state lawmakers and policymakers, a state senator on Tuesday introduced a bill to roll back nearly 100 mandates imposed on schools.

“The problem is really the disconnect from the folks in tall buildings…who have a good idea, and it makes sense on paper, and then you try to apply it,” said Sen. Matt Huffman (R-Lima), who introduced the bill based on input from a group of 40 west-central school superintendents.

Among many other things, Senate Bill 216 would give superintendents flexibility to allow teachers to teach outside their licensed subject matters, revamp how the state uses assessments to evaluate teacher performance, and increase the time for non-teaching employers to reach tenure to seven years.

The bill would provide more flexibility for superintendents to excuse absences, require a study into whether the state’s College Credit Plus program, which combines the high school and college tracks, ultimately saves students money and fast tracks college degrees, and require some CCP-track parents to pay at least part of the cost for textbooks.

Despite criticism about the frequency of state testing, the bill would only eliminate one test — the kindergarten-level reading diagnostic that is part of Ohio’s guarantee that students must read by the third grade.

“It is a test that gives us no information,” said Brenda Boeke, superintendent of Minster Local Schools in Auglaize County.

The bill would maintain the test for grades 1 and 2.

The bill would also give third-graders the option of taking state assessments on paper instead by computer. It would require the state’s private testing vendor to promptly turnaround an analysis of a school’s test results before the start of the next school year.

Huffman stressed that the changes could not interfere with federal law and are not designed to provide new protections for charter or online schools like the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow.

The online ECOT is in court fighting the state’s efforts to claw back about $80 million in state aid for students that the state claims the school did not educate.

“This is geared toward public schools,” Huffman said. “It’s been drafted by public school superintendents. If it somehow affects something within the charter school regiment, that would not necessarily be a bad thing, but that’s not what it’s about…

“This isn’t about ECOT, or checking in online, or anything like that,” he said.

To a large extent, the bill steers clear of addressing the number of standardized tests students must take, a hot-button topic within the General Assembly.

“It is so complicated,” said Chris Pfister, superintendent of Waynesfield-Goshen Local Schools in Auglaize County. “Testing should be addressed in total scope in a separate bill. There are many superintendents who want to see that happen.”

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By Jim Provance

The Toledo Blade