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The Ohio Senate passed a bill to modify standardized testing, allowing different pathways for current juniors and seniors to graduate amid a pandemic school year.
The bill also reinstated an emergency clause to the bill that the House removed in their initial vote on the measure.
“If we pass this without the emergency clause, this will happen after the school year is over,” said state Sen. Andrew Brenner, R-Powell.
The emergency clause allows the bill to take effect immediately after the governor signs the bill, rather than 90-days after, as is typical for bills without an emergency clause.
Juniors and seniors will be able to take or retake high school end-of-course exams if they were unable to take them, and those scores can be used as a final grade, in a change to the House bill, Brenner said.
Graduation will also be possible for those who earn the Ohio Means Jobs readiness seal, along with the minimum curriculum requirements. To receive the seal on a high school diploma, students “must demonstrate certain professional skills required for success in the workplace,” according to the Ohio Means Jobs site explaining the seal.
That amendment was introduced by state Sen. Theresa Fedor, D-Toledo, as a way to make work done during the pandemic beneficial to students.
“This change will help students who have already had to work, and many were considered essential workers during our pandemic, and they have already developed professional relationships and additional demonstration of soft skills like professionalism and critical thinking,” Fedor said during Wednesday’s Senate session.
The bill now heads back to the House, which will consider the changes made by the Senate.
Two bills hoping to make changes to Ohio’s education system, one immediately and one seeking long-term change, faced legislative questioning on Tuesday.
The Ohio Senate Primary and Secondary Education Committee passed a bill that to alter the state’s standardized testing plan.
Meanwhile, a bill introduced last week that would overhaul the state’s report card system was brought to the House Primary and Secondary Committee by its sponsors, with the acknowledgment that the bill would be subject to change.
“We know this bill’s not perfect right, because it’s the beginning stages of a bill,” said cosponsor state Rep. Don Jones, R-Freeport.
One criticism was a reduction in the number of gifted students in a district that would trigger that district to report information on their gifted program. The districts would only need to report the information if there is at least 20 students considered gifted within that district.
“A lot of districts are smaller and may not have that many, and yet that seems to be an important measure and information for the parents of students in that district,” said state Rep. Mary Lightbody, D-Westerville.
Jones said bill sponsors plan to meet with the Ohio Association for Gifted Children tomorrow to work on that element of the bill.
The bill’s measurement of students will be delayed for the same reason sponsors of a state testing bill are trying to modify standardized testing across the state, being conducted in the pandemic-shortened school year.
“For some schools, we don’t want to start measuring them right away because, let’s face it, we’ve got a learning gap that we’re going to have to try to fill in the 21-22 school year,” Jones told the committee.
As state report card discussions went on, Senate Primary and Secondary Education Committee passed the bill that would change the state’s standardized testing plan, which typically informs state report cards.
The bill, which extends the time allowed to take and report state and federally mandated standardized testing, was passed after it was amended to include the emergency clause the House did not approve as they passed the bill.
One exception to the state testing extensions was for third-grade reading assessment. Sponsors of the bill said previously that the assessment couldn’t be moved because it determines progression to fourth grade.
That bill now heads to the full Senate for a vote.
Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.