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ESSA letter from superintendent

March 8, 2017

Dear Community Members, Parents/Guardians, and Staff,

Forest Hills School District has joined area districts in voicing concern that Ohio continues to over test students. As such, we are advocating for the reduction of testing, increased local control, and more stable funding.

Currently, federal requirements in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) – the federal education act that replaced No Child Left Behind – calls for reading and math testing in grades three through eight, science testing in grades five and eight, and one high school test. Ohio has expanded these requirements to include testing in reading, math, science and social studies in grades five through eight, and multiple high school end-of-course exams.

While we support benchmarking to refine instructional practices to better serve students, we believe:

  • educational decision-making is best done by the people closest to students. It is time to reduce the amount of state testing and empower our teachers, principals, parents, School Board Members, and community to hold us accountable to the high standards they believe are important in a quality education.
  • Ohio should not enact any legislation or regulations beyond the federal requirements of ESSA. Forest Hills prides itself in the regular use of student data to inform instruction. Accountability and continuous improvement are important, but we do not believe imposed state testing beyond the federal requirements will better help our students achieve academic success.
     
  • Ohio should remove state end-of-course exams. We strongly believe the administration of the ACT/SAT is more relevant to our students and parents and provides a comprehensive and useful tool for teachers. In advocating for the use of the ACT/SAT or another nationally-normed test, we also support the implementation of a high school graduation performance standard on the assessment.
     
  • Ohio must provide testing results to districts in a timely manner. Currently, teachers do not receive specific information about the results of students in their classrooms. We believe test results and item analysis should be made available so that appropriate instructional decisions can be made in a timelier manner, rather than simply be used to rank districts and schools.
     

In Forest Hills, our long-term goals to foster the love of learning, pursue excellence and meet the needs of each child are jeopardized when too much testing exists.  We continuously strive to improve instruction, empower learners and personalize learning to meet the needs of our students. Our students must be able to demonstrate 21st century skills of critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, character, and citizenship; skills not easily assessed by standardized tests. We believe it is time to let our teachers teach.

In the coming weeks, legislators will be making final decisions on how best to implement ESSA in the state of Ohio.  Your voice is important. If you would like to share your thoughts on ESSA implementation, please contact Steve Wilson, Ohio Senate District 7, at http://ohiosenate.gov/wilson/contact; Tom Brinkman, State Representative, at http://gobrinkman.com/?page_id=259; Pat Bruns, State Board of Education, District 4, at pat.bruns@education.ohio.gov or State Board of Education President Tess Elshoff at elshoffTess@education.ohio.gov.

To share your thoughts with Forest Hills, feel free to email me at scotprebles@foresthills.edu.

Respectfully,

Scot T. Prebles
Superintendent
photo of Scot Prebles superintendent