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Ohio House Republicans Debate Cutting PARCC Testing

Majority Republicans in the Ohio House want to stop the state from using the education tests known as the PARCC. Critics say they take up too much time and place too much pressure on students. But others say now is not the time to break ties with PARCC.  Ohio Public Radio's Andy Chow reports.

The anti-PARCC language first went unnoticed after House Republicans rolled out their revised budget bill. But after taking a closer look at the 3,000 page document—policymakers and advocates spotted the change.

The new budget bill says that the state is prohibited from using the PARCC. There’s also language that appears to cut the funding towards any assessment. That’s the provision that causes the most concern for leaders like Republican Senator Peggy Lehner of Kettering.

“We are mandated by the federal government under No Child Left Behind to do these assessments so we don’t really have the option of walking away from state tests unless we also want to walk away from about $750 million,” said Lehner.

That $750 million price tag is what’s causing distress among education advocates, including Lisa Gray with Philanthropy Ohio, a group that supports strong standards and effective assessments.

“There are significant questions about whether or not—if we do not have a state assessment—whether or not Ohio would be able to access those dollars for our students,” said Gray.

House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, a Republican from Clarksville, says his caucus was trying to send a message with the new provisions. He says Ohio needs to look at different testing mechanisms for the state.

“We’re starting to put this into motion and definitely we know that there has to be an assessment and we have to have that conversation and it’s another process that we’re going to continue to work through,” Rosenberger said.

One major critique of PARCC is that testing takes up too much time and happens too soon. Starting at the beginning of the school year teachers have to prepare their students to be ready for a first round of tests as early as February. Then teachers get back to instruction before the second round of tests as early as April.

“We’re looking at ways we can streamline the testing time and we’re looking very carefully to see if we can bring those two components into a single window so we have heard that comment loud and clear,” said Nellhaus.

That’s Jeff Nellhaus, the chief of assessment for PARCC Inc. He and other PARCC officials were invited to speak to the Senate advisory committee on testing and answer any questions.

Pat Kramer is with Pearson—which manages the administration and scoring of the new tests. She and the other members of the team asked for patience as they continue to improve the test. Kramer says Ohio experienced even more hiccups than other states.

“You can call it a curse or a luxury but Ohio was first out of the gate so you were the first state to administer the test there were a few bumps in the road,” said Kramer.

Senator Lehner is chair of the Senate Education Committee and oversees the advisory committee. She says she can see the flaws with PARCC but isn’t quite ready to abandon the tests—which the state and school districts have spent millions of dollars implementing.

“Now if the major objections to PARCC can be fixed—it makes a lot more sense to starting all over with a brand new test which we will have first time angst over next year,” said Lehner.

Gray, with Philanthropy Ohio, agrees and thinks state leaders should give the PARCC more time.

“We do think that pulling the rug out from underneath schools at this point before there’s been an opportunity to really see if this is the right assessment probably doesn’t make a lot of sense,” said Gray.

Republican Representative Ryan Smith of Gallipolis, who chairs the House Finance committee, defends the new House language to get rid of PARCC.

“I don’t think it should surprise anybody that our members have strong issues and we’ve heard from a lot of our constituents that PARCC is an issue. As far as the next step I don’t think anybody has come to us and said here’s the direction we’re going,” Smith explained.

Both House and Senate leaders have noted that it’s still early in the budget process and time will tell what happens next with the testing provisions.

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