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State’s testing plan draws ire at forum

Lawmaker, educators, public want input

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    State Rep. Teresa Fedor speaks with area residents during a forum held at Start High School. Monday’s forum was attended by about 50 members of the community.

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    ‘Learning is not a test,’ Kahlil Haynes, 14, center, said during a forum held by State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo) for area residents at Start High School. Forum attendees included the public, members of the Toledo Board of Education, and other area officials.

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Local public school advocates criticized the number of state tests students must take and called for the Ohio Department of Education to hit pause on an education plan it is crafting in response to a new federal law.

The too-much-testing cry came during a Monday forum convened by state Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo) as Ohio prepares its final response to the Every Student Succeeds Act.

All states must come up with a plan that shows how they will meet requirements of the federal education law, which in 2015 replaced the No Child Left Behind Act.

IN PICTURES: Public forum on education requirements

States can submit those plans in April or September, and Ohio officials intend to send in the state’s plan early next month.

But Ms. Fedor and about 50 people who attended the forum at Start High School want the state to delay its submission so that public input that they think the state ignored — chiefly about the number of state tests — is included.

“We really need to call them out on this,” Ms. Fedor said.

The new federal law provides more flexibility to states and local school districts about how they handle matters such as school ratings and testing.

Many who attended the forum complained about how much time testing takes away from classroom instruction, how tests are scored, the anxiety tests cause in students, and the frequency with which assessments have changed in recent years.

“I understand how it’s necessary to take tests, but I am frustrated because I am always being tested,” said Kahlil Haynes, a 14-year-old Bowsher High School freshman.

“It is just test after test after test,” he added.

But to many educators’ distress, Ohio’s draft plan calls for elementary and high school students to continue to take a total of 24 tests, instead of the 17 required by the federal law. Reducing the number of state tests would require an Ohio law change.

School officials and teachers said the state didn’t incorporate the feedback the education department sought as it created its plan over the last year.

“They didn’t listen to a daggone thing that we talked about because we talked about testing and the astronomical amount of it,” said Toledo school board President Chris Varwig.

After the meeting, Ms. Varwig said she expects the school board will approve a formal response to the state that includes a request to delay the plan’s submission.

Education department officials have said they are committed to examining state tests, but that review won’t occur as part of Ohio’s education plan.

Department spokesman Brittany Halpin said in a statement last week that the state “will continue to engage stakeholders” after the plan is submitted and that the department has incorporated feedback from thousands of Ohioans into its plan.

Monday’s forum in Toledo took place on the day the state closed a public comment period about its draft plan.

Attendees included Superintendent Romules Durant, members of the school board and Toledo City Council, Rep. Mike Sheehy (D., Oregon), current and retired teachers, parents and grandparents, and concerned residents.

Ms. Fedor said she will continue campaigning for Ohio to delay its submission and rewrite its plan by encouraging those who attended the event and others to contact state and federal officials about their concerns and organizing community members around the issue.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: or 419-724-6065, or on Twitter @vanmccray.

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