State rep covers testing and graduation standards

(Posted Oct. 15, 2017)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

New graduation requirements, a push for less mandated testing, and state report card changes. Nick Owens counts these as among the top priorities of the state board of education.

Owens, elected to the state board last November, introduced himself at the Oct. 10 London school board meeting. Owens represents the state’s 10th District, which covers 17 counties, including Madison County, and 52 school districts.

The state board of education is comprised of 19 members, 11 of whom are elected and eight appointed by the governor. Owens said the state board’s responsibilities include hiring, firing and retaining the state superintendent and creating rules for public education.

One recently enacted rule changes the requirements for graduation from high school. Previously, students had three paths to graduation: earning at least 18 points out of 35 on end-of-course exams, earning a non-remedial score on the ACT or SAT, or earning certain scores on end-of-course career technical exams.

Owens said it was “ridiculous” that a student couldn’t graduate due to one bad test score. So, the state board is piloting a broader set of graduation pathways, applicable to the graduating class of 2018.

Students can take their end-of-course exams again. If they still fail to meet those requirements, then they need to meet at least two of nine other requirements in order to graduate. Those nine range from certain attendance and GPA numbers their senior year to completing a capstone project, community service or work experience.

At the end of this year, Owens said, the state board will assess the pilot program’s success before deciding how to move forward.

As for mandated testing, Owens stated that students in Ohio must complete 24 tests over the course of their public education careers. Of those, 17 are federally mandated. Owens said the state board is working to reduce the number of tests; two were eliminated in this year’s state budgeting process, bringing the total number to 22.

The purpose, he said, is to “get away from teaching to the test,” so that teachers and school districts have more time and flexibility to tailor curriculum to their students.

About the state report card, Owens said, “It needs work,” but that frequent overhauls do a disservice to educators. Consistency is the goal, he said.

London Superintendent Dr. Lou Kramer thanked Owens for visiting with school leaders and addressing the board.

Board member Ed Maynor commented, “Thanks for being a friend to public education” and to the local community and schools.

Enrollment Numbers

Kramer reported that enrollment figures at the high school are up by nearly 90 students over last year. He attributes the increase to a smaller graduating class last year, a large incoming freshman class, and changes with London Academy closing and London Unlimited, the district’s new alternative education option, opening. All totaled, the high school has about 650 students.

He added that enrollment at the elementary and middle schools is holding steady.

Swimming and Diving Team

The board approved swimming and diving as a club sport at the high school. They also approved Kramer and Bart DeNijs as volunteer coaches.

The team will practice at Champaign Family YMCA in Urbana. The season runs from November to February. Kramer said he and DeNijs hope to have about six students participate this year.

“We have a thriving summer (swim team) program at the London (municipal) pool. Many of those kids expressed interest in a winter team,” Kramer said.

As a club sport, the swimming and diving program will come at no cost to the school district.

In other athletics news, the board accepted the resignation of Matthew White as the middle school’s head wrestling coach. The board also approved supplemental contracts at the high school level for Darrell Tobin as varsity assistant football coach, Kelly Nelson as varsity softball coach, Nicholas Blake as varsity baseball coach, Abby Fisher as winter freshman cheerleading advisor, Joseph Montoya as boys’ track coach and Jereme Collins as girls’ track coach.

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