LIMA — An advocacy group made up of 40 local school districts is taking advantage of recent legislation to put more emphasis on local control for school boards.
The Northwest/West Central Ohio Public School Advocacy Network is lobbying to have state testing requirements lowered to federal minimums so teachers can spend more time “teaching.”
“Our message is simple,” said Bath Superintendent Dale Lewellen, who heads up the 40-member group. “Let our teachers teach, let our children learn and give back local control to our boards of education.”
Current federal requirements are for testing in math and reading in grades 3-8 and one high school test. The State of Ohio expands those requirements to include testing also in science and social studies in grades 5-8 as well as multiple end-of-course exams for high school. With the recent implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the Ohio Department of Education is currently rehashing testing requirements in the state. The local group is one of several groups moving to have testing requirements minimized.
“ESSA allows states more flexibility to redesign things,” Lewellen said. “We want it to be fashioned as we see best.”
Lewellen said teachers spend so much class time preparing for the tests that teachers have little spare time to ready their students for college.
“We want it to be a productive process,” Lewellen said. “We know what colleges expect, and we want to prepare them.”
The ODE is hosting 10 ESSA stakeholder meetings throughout the state for input, and Lewellen said the local group plans to have representatives at as many sessions as possible. The next scheduled meeting is at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Toledo Club Centennial Room. The stakeholder meeting schedule is available on the ODE website.
“Districts have been living under these ‘one size fits all’ mandates for years,” said Lima schools Superintendent Jill Ackerman. “It is not fair to our staff, students or communities. Operating as if all districts are the same and face the same challenges is a disservice to our schools and doesn’t adequately show what is happening in our buildings or the strides we are making with students.”
Lewellen encouraged both school districts and parents to plan to attend a meeting if possible.
“Respectfully, I, along with my fellow superintendents, request that our legislators do what many have professed they desire to do and reduce the mandates on our schools beginning with a reduction in testing,” Lewellen said.
Reach Lance Mihm at 567-242-0409 or at Twitter@LanceMihm