Westerville News & Public Opinion

Snow claims one more delay: OAA testing

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Harsh weather kept students home for more "snow days" during the winter of 2013-14 than any winter since the 1970s.

And now, despite the melted snow and warmer temperatures, winter has found a way to cause one more delay in the Westerville City School District.

The district last week announced it is delaying by a week its administration of the Ohio Achievement Assessments. The three-day exam measures students' comprehension in math, science, reading, social studies and writing, based on grade level, for third- through eighth-graders.

Due to the harsh winter weather, the Ohio Department of Education expanded the "test window" for giving the test, to provide teachers and students more preparation time. Since the department allowed the extension, district officials decided to use that opportunity and push back its OAA exams.

Scott Ebbrecht, coordinator of assessment and alternative education services, said the district modified its schedule to allow teachers uninterrupted teaching to help prepare students. He also said that the opportunity for continuous education led to the decision to delay the test.

"The extra time provides more days for instruction," Ebbrecht said. "When there is quality instruction coupled with scheduled continuity, students are more prepared for state-mandated assessment."

Richard Ross, state superintendent of public instruction, said in a press release that the delay is "a reasonable step that will benefit students and teachers."

"School officials have expressed concern about missed instructional time and the need to prepare students for the assessment," Ross said. "We feel it is important to provide educational leaders with flexibility regarding the assessment."

Testing in the district was scheduled to begin April 21. The assessment begins a week later for middle school students, on April 28, and for elementary school students on May 1.

Westerville used six calamity days this winter, which caused several instruction interruptions and the need for schedule adjustments. District officials worked with fellow building administrators and various teachers to ensure the new schedule will fit everyone's needs.

"When you change a schedule that has already been established for nearly a year, there are going to be other things filled in around those dates," Ebbrecht said. "You just have to make sure you have stakeholder input when you make those decisions."

Kendall Harris, principal at Blendon Middle School, said that Blendon teachers are happy to have the extended time to prepare students.

"For the most part they were happy because missing that seat time is vital and very important," Harris said. "Anything we can do to be able to help the students grow mentally and academically is the best thing to do."

Though the tests are delayed, Ebbrecht said middle school students will finish all tests prior to the annual trip to Washington, D.C.

Middle school students will be tested on reading and math April 28 and April 30, respectively. Eighth-graders only will be tested on science on May 1.

Elementary school students follow a similar structure: They begin with a reading test on May 1 and math on May 6. Fifth-graders only will be tested on science on May 8.

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