With Ohio schools preparing to set aside 15 consecutive days to administer English language tests and another 15 days for math, science and social studies tests beginning in March, most Reynoldsburg Board of Education members support a reduction in the number of state standardized tests.

Already this school year, students havehad five days of consecutive tests between Oct. 23 and Nov. 3, 2017, and 10 consecutive days of standardized tests between Dec. 4, 2017, and Jan. 12.

Reynoldsburg school board members approved a resolution supporting a reduction in state tests at their January meeting, but not without a lively debate and a tie-breaking vote by board President Joe Begeny.

Two board members, Neal Whitman and Robert Barga, eventually voted against the resolution.

Board Vice President Debbie Dunlap and member Jeni Quesenberry voted for it, leaving Begeny to cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of the resolution.

Dunlap said she introduced the resolution to support State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria's efforts to cut the number of state tests students must take.

"Local control of these tests has been a hot topic for many years," she said. "The state report card has become increasingly convoluted and complicated, while parents and educators struggle to understand it."

Dunlap said Reynoldsburg schools should be "a part of the conversation to pave the way for less state testing and more local control."

DeMaria asked the Ohio legislature in December to remove the high school English 1 exam, a WorkKeys test for career-training students and any state tests given just to evaluate teachers.

The state eliminated social studies tests for fourth- and sixth-graders in 2017 on recommendations from DeMaria's advisory group.

The Reynoldsburg resolution says "state officials have usurped local control in several critical areas" and by replacing the No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top programs with the Every Student Succeeds Act, they "continue the test-and-punish philosophy."

The resolution takes the state to task for "changing standards and cut scores on an annual basis," calling that "inexcusable and counterproductive."

"The single-score measurement is an invalid assessment with false pretense claiming accountability and transparency," the resolution says.

It goes on to state that the board supports efforts by DeMaria and the State Board of Education to reduce standardized testing and to develop an accountability system involving parents, school board members, administrators and teachers.

Whitman said he agreed with the resolution in concept, but did not like the language.

"It seems to me that some of the language is kind of emotional and vague in places, such as 'the test-and-punish philosophy,' " he said.

Begeny disagreed.

"Maybe we need a little more fire to make them understand where we are coming from," he said.

"Standardized tests are more than a test-and-punish," Barga said. "They ensure our students can compete in a worldwide market ... the tests should be used as a guide to ensure students can compete with anyone else; they are a fundamental tool in our belt."

Begeny, a teacher with Columbus City Schools, said the tests "take away the time to teach."

"I can see both sides, where kids walk out the door and graduate because they passed a test or they are not successful because of a test score," he said.

"All this does is throw more obstacles in front of students. The state uses the tests to say this school is bad and this one is good."

Quesenberry said she finds it "heart-wrenching that we throw students that have special needs behind these computers now and expect them to do well."

Dunlap said she was not "trying to throw the baby out with the bathwater," but does want fewer state tests and more local control over them.

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