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Tougher test requirements hurt Ohio student performance scores


New science and social studies tests brought down the otherwise improving proficiency scores of Ohio’s K-12 students last year and contributed to a decline in the number of districts and schools receiving the highest “excellent” rating, figures released Tuesday show.

Measured against the same reading, writing and math tests offered during the 2005-2006 school year, scores continued their upward trend in 2006-2007, according to the State Report Card issued by the Ohio Department of Education. But the addition of proficiency tests for fifth- and eighth-graders in science and social studies made the long upward trend in student performance turn slightly south.

State Superintendent Susan Tave Zelman emphasized the positives in the assessment, including improvements to long-flat statewide reading scores, 8 in 10 districts still rated in the two top categories of “excellent” or “effective”, and no districts in the lowest achievement category for the second year in a row.

She said one of the most pressing issues remains the achievement gap between students of different races and abilities, including a gap of more than 25 points between whites and blacks. The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires achievement goals to be met in the aggregate and also within specific subsets of students based on race, ethnicity, income, disability and English proficiency.

“More attention must be paid to strategies for these children,” Zelman said. “If a child is three to four years behind, we shouldn’t be satisfied with them making one to two years of progress. We have a sense of urgency about this.”

In all, 53 fewer districts and 147 fewer buildings were rated “excellent” during the 2006-2007 school year, with most of those moving into the second-place “effective” category. Still, more schools and districts earned the highest ranking than two years earlier.

Just 182 buildings ranked at the lowest “academic emergency” level, down 26 buildings from the previous year and down 156 buildings from 2002-2003.

Overall, the state met 19 of 30 performance indicators, which include test scores in various subjects at different grade levels as well as attendance and graduation rates. The statewide attendance rate of 94.1 percent exceeded the goal of 93 percent, but the graduation rate of 86.1 percent still lagged behind the 90 percent target.

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– Associated Press

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