This week high school students in Worthington will take their Ohio Graduation Tests (OGT). Students in Ohio must pass all five parts (Reading, Writing, Math, Science and Social Studies) of the OGT in order to receive high school diplomas. Students have multiple chances to pass these sections beginning with their sophomore year. In 2009, the Ohio legislature passed an education reform bill eliminating the OGT in favor of a new assessment system (Next Generation Assessments). The development and transition to this new assessment system will take several years and creates several unique challenges.
As you are likely aware Worthington and all other Ohio schools are teaching new content standards (content standards describe the knowledge and skills that students should attain, often called the “what” of “what students should know and be able to do.” They indicate the ways of thinking, working, communicating, reasoning and investigating as well as important and enduring ideas, concepts, issues, dilemmas and knowledge essential to the academic area of study) this year in Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies. The Language Arts and Mathematics standards are the Common Core State Standards. Because the standards have changed, this year’s OGT’s will align to both the old standards and Ohio’s new learning standards. Next year, both the OGT’s and Next Generation Assessments will align to Ohio’s new learning standards.
To accomplish this alignment questions on the OGT which were originally created and aligned to the 2001-2002 standards were reviewed by the Ohio Department of Education and American Institutes for Research staff, and then by committees of Ohio educators. During the review, each question was either aligned to a new learning standard or identified as having no alignment and therefore removed from the test bank. This year’s tests are thus referred to as dual-aligned and are unique in the history of the OGT.
In addition to the challenge of assessing both the old and new standards, another challenge is that as the law stands today, schools must begin giving students in high school the Next Generation Assessments during the next school year (2014-2015). Not only will next year’s 10th-graders (the class of 2017) take the Next Generation Assessments, they must also take the OGT. Students will need the graduation tests to meet current legislative graduation requirements. As a result, if the requirements remain the same, next year’s sophomores will take significantly more tests.
Currently a graduation requirements committee of the State Board of Education is working to develop new graduation rules. However, legislation will be needed to make the rules effective for the Class of 2018. The Columbus Dispatch wrote about this challenge in the 3/9/14 edition of their newspaper.
The future of the OGT and Next Generation Assessments will sort itself out over time. This week over 700 Worthington sophomores will take the exam for the first time and some juniors and seniors will seek to make the passing score that has eluded them in previous attempts. A high stakes graduation exam is a stressful experience for 15-18 year old students. Our students don’t need luck, they’re well prepared. They will however need stamina and perseverance because five exams in one week would tax anyone. If you know a high school student, cut them some slack this week. They lost an hour of sleep over the weekend and they’re testing all week.
-Trent Bowers, Assistant Superintendent