Firelands rallies against state tests

Firelands teacher Audra Costello is concerned with how the state tests impacted class instruction time.

Photos by Valerie Urbanik | Civitas Media

Firelands student Nathan Hammond talks about his experience taking the PARCC tests.

Time to fix state testing before passage of Ohio’s biennial budget is quickly running out.

Angry residents rallying last week at the Firelands Schools pushed a campaign to call state senators and representatives and voice disapproval of the new PARCC tests that rolled out this year.

Firelands Parents Supporting Our Children and Teachers wants to shrink testing from two periods to one with shorter exams at the end of the year.

The test questions and answers should also be more transparent, the group argues.

“This can’t be a Lorain County issue, this has to go state-wide,” said new superintendent Mike Von Gunten. “The opportunity for changes is now.”

Fifth-graders spent 12.5 hours testing in math, reading, and science this year and the PARCC and AIR assessments impacted 12 instructional days at the elementary school, 17 days at the middle school, and 18 at the high school, he said.

The previous year students spent seven and half hours on tests, which used four days of instruction.

“The tests your children are taking is nothing like we took,” said Firelands English teacher Audra Costello to the roughly 30 people in the audience.

She was not only concerned with students taking the PARCCs, but how they jeopardize the school schedule.

Von Gunten was bothered that Firelands educators won’t receive test result until the middle of next year.

Assessments should be tools that reveal what students know and allow teachers to address weaknesses quickly, he said.

“This current test, we won’t get results for months,” Von Gunten said. “That’s a concern of every person in this room.”

Firelands students took the tests online — at least those who showed up on exam days. Nearly a third of the 1,000 Lorain County students who dodged the PARCCs this year were from Firelands.

Von Gunten said parents kept their students from taking the tests because they did not find them appropriate and took up too much time.

Those students were given different activities and assignments by teachers while others were testing.

“If these things happen again next year, we will handle this the same way,” Von Gunten said.

Firelands student Nathan Hammond said the PARCC test was too difficult.

He also complaint that he was required to fill out a survey about his personal life at the end of the exam. It asked questions about where he studied and extracurricular activities he is involved in.

“It felt like it was an invasion of my privacy,” he said. “How do I know who’s looking at these tests?”

Hammond said he felt pressured on each test because he heard if he didn’t do well his teachers could lose their jobs.

“That put pressure on me and made me feel stressed,” Hammond said. “Their job was dependent on me.”

Valerie Urbanik can be reached 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.