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Education

Sylvanians skewer state-mandated 'high stakes testing'

Local school teachers and parents gather to describe negatives

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    Sylvania school teacher Heather Musgrove.

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    Maumee Schools teacher Jim Windnagle and Perrysburg parent Karlyn Swoap listen during a forum.

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    People attend the Northwest Ohio Friends of Public Education forum titled Ohio's High Stakes Testing Policies.

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Sylvania school teacher Heather Musgrove.

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People attend the Northwest Ohio Friends of Public Education forum titled Ohio's High Stakes Testing Policies.

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A panel of local school teachers and parents gathered Tuesday night in Sylvania to describe the negative impact they believe state-mandated testing, such as the Ohio Achievement Assessment tests students are taking this week, is having on education.

Sponsored by Northwest Ohio Friends of Public Education, a six-member panel detailed how “Ohio’s High Stakes Testing Policies,” hinder educational success and cause extreme fears and anxiety among students.

“Children are starting to value tests more than the education itself. The grades a student earns in school is more important" than state tests, said Ruslan Slutsky, an associate professor of early childhood education at the University of Toledo and a parent of two Sylvan Elementary School students.

About 40 people attended the program at the Sylvania Branch Library. Dan Greenberg, newly formed NWOFPE's chairman and an English teacher at Sylvania's Southview High School, said two state-mandated tests now determine Ohio students' grade advancement: the third-grade reading assessment part of the OAA tests given this week to elementary students, and the Ohio Graduation Test, for which a passing score is required for students to receive high school diplomas.

Panelist Lisa Clair, a psychologist for Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West, recalled parental feedback about children so anxious about the tests they experienced sleepless nights and inability to eat.

Sylvania parent and panelist Jane Barnes tearfully told the audience that her son, a McCord Junior High School eighth grader, opted out of the tests for the first time this week and actually slept, ate, and experienced no headaches.

The panelists made it clear they were not against testing, nor were they encouraging parents to opt children out of tests. But they did ask parents to make their voices heard by schools and state officials if the tests' impact on their children and relationship to school ratings and funding dismays them.

Mr. Slutsky said children need time in classroom to think, solve problems, and make mistakes. But his children’s educational focus shifted in January, he said.

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Maumee Schools teacher Jim Windnagle and Perrysburg parent Karlyn Swoap listen during a forum.

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“After January school had a different feel. OAA started to pop up in their vocabulary. They are performing test packets, spending two hours a day on the OAA test packets, before the tests," he said, adding that the curriculum was focused on test prep rather than educating.

Such learning is based on product and “getting the answer right,” which is not a sustainable way of teaching, he said.

When panelist Karlyn Swoap, the parent of a Perrysburg High School sophomore, said her child will have to take 14 standardized tests next year, parents in the audience gasped.

Sylvania resident Stacy Delverne, meanwhile, said her child's teachers could not explain to her how the OAA tests are scored.

“There are 45 questions on the test. How are there 500 points?” she asked.

Panelists agreed teachers are left in the dark about how answers are weighed, with Mr. Greenberg saying some of that information is proprietary to test producers. Some of the testing mandates are related to Common Core State Standards, a set of uniform standards for what each child should know at each grade level.

“This affects children higher on the scale. I see my children losing their love of learning,” Rebecca Roberts of Perrysburg said. “So now what do we do?”

Mr. Greenberg said the organization is trying to educate first and then come up with an action plan, and will host a forum May 13 at 7 p.m. at Southview High School, 7225 Sylvania Ave. to discuss action plans. But any changes implemented in out-of-state school districts were parent-driven, he said.

Contact Natalie Trusso Cafarello at: 419-206-0356, or ntrusso@theblade.com, or on Twitter @natalietrusso.

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