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State delays education plan to get superintendents' views


ELYRIA — The state will not send its education plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act next month as planned, which allows local leaders to continue to press the issue of accountability without overreliance on high-stakes tests.

State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria said this week the Ohio Department of Education will delay submitting the state’s ESSA plan to the federal government until September to spend more time engaging stakeholders. It’s the answer to the pleas of many superintendents who have said they feel ignored by state officials and their concerns disregarded.

ESSA replaces No Child Left Behind.

“We requested the extension until September because what we have been saying all along is hold off and let’s get this right,” Elyria Superintendent Tom Jama said Thursday just before reading a board resolution summarizing key concerns of the state’s proposed education plan.

The document directs concerns to the Department of Education and was passed unanimously by board members who championed Jama for not letting up in the fight to ensure those charged with crafting sweeping policy initiatives hear the concerns of citizens.

“This is very important to our school district, and you are making a difference,” said Board President Greg Elek.

DeMaria said Monday that in its decision to delay, the Department of Education was listening to stakeholders.

“The submission of the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) response should be an event that unites us,” he said in a statement. “In recent weeks, we’ve heard from stakeholders who feel their input was not reflected in the ESSA template. In reality, however, stakeholder sentiments were heard loud and clear, and we have stated our commitment to identifying solutions to the challenges raised.”

While operating districts autonomously, Lorain County’s 14 superintendents have a history of coming together regarding state matters of education. When the state rolled out its preliminary education plan last month, educators gathered to create a letter explaining reasons for opposing it — the biggest of which centers on testing and how Ohio continues to say students should take more assessments than now required by the federal government.

Keystone Superintendent Franco Gallo said he is pleased with the decision to delay ESSA, “but what will be key is if the educators’ voices are eventually implemented into the plan.”

Elyria Schools’ resolution included the following suggestions for molding the state education plan:

  • Create a state accountability model that does not overemphasize standardized test scores.
  • Give Ohio’s citizens a stronger voice in shaping statewide education policy.
  • Replace the current A-F school district grading system with more descriptive language such as exceeds the indicator, meets the indicator, approaching the indicator and does not meet the indicator.
  • Enable school districts to develop local indicators of excellence that reflect the quality of their schools, can be incorporated into their school system’s overall rating and meaningful to their communities.
  • Create an Ohio graduation system that is not exclusively reliant upon the performance of students on standardized tests.
  • Streamline Ohio’s high stakes testing system by reducing the number of state tests to the benchmark required by federal law, providing test systems that identify gaps in student learning so teachers can provide remedial support and reporting these results on a timely basis.

Firelands Superintendent Mike Von Gunten said the Firelands school board approved a similar resolution Monday night.

“ESSA is the playbook that we will be following for the foreseeable future, eight to 10 years perhaps,” he said. “As a result, all Lorain County superintendents have pledged to work diligently to address our collective concerns that deal primarily with overtesting and restoring local control.”

DeMaria is convening a Superintendent’s Advisory Committee on Assessments to address concerns related to testing. The full focus will include state-required tests, as well as district-level tests.

Avon Superintendent Mike Laub will be part of this committee, he said.

“I was fortunate enough to be asked to sit on the Superintendent Advisory Committee for Assessment at ODE,” he said. “We begin meeting next week.”

Laub anticipates there will be another local forum as the discussions progress. He also plans to share a similar resolution with the Avon school board for consideration.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.

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