Understanding Each Child, Our Future: Standards, Assessment and Accountability (Strategies 4-6)
Each Child, Our Future is Ohio’s five-year strategic plan to ensure each student enjoys a bright future thanks to an excellent preK-12 education experience. More than 150 Ohio-based partners helped develop Each Child, Our Future, along with feedback from 1,200 Ohio parents, caregivers, preK-12 and postsecondary educators, employers, business leaders, community members, state legislators and students.
This is the eighth in an 11-part series that walks EdConnection readers through the plan. Last week, we covered strategies 1-3 that address excellent educators and instructional practices. This week, we take a close look at strategies 4-6, which deal with standards, assessments and school accountability. These three areas make up one of five key elements of a high-quality education and can be found on pages 17-19 of the plan, which appears in its entirety here.
Strategy 4: Identify clear learning standards and guidelines that reflect all four equal learning domains.
- The four equal learning domains are a broad representation of what Ohio wants students to know and be able to do beyond the traditional academic subjects. Ohio has long had standards focused on foundational knowledge and skills and well-rounded content learning domains, or areas. Ohio now will engage educators, employers and experts to help develop standards and guidelines for what students should be able to demonstrate in the learning domains of leadership and reasoning and social-emotional learning. Ohio already has social-emotional learning standards for children from birth through grade 3. To build on these, the Ohio Department of Education commissioned a Social-Emotional Learning Standards Advisory Group to recommend social-emotional learning standards for the entire K-12 continuum. The Department expects to post the standards for public comment in the coming month. The Department will take a similar approach to develop student learning guidelines for leadership and reasoning.
Strategy 5: Move toward a varied system of assessments to appropriately gauge the four equal learning domains and allow students to demonstrate competency and mastery in ways beyond state standardized tests.
To start, this strategy will involve two initiatives:
- Identifying robust and diverse ways to measure performance: The Department, working in partnership with educators across the state, is exploring innovative approaches to assessments that go beyond academic content, particularly in the leadership and reasoning and social-emotional learning domains. Skills in these two learning domains can be observed by properly trained individuals. A few Ohio schools already have worked with community partners to develop measurements that show how well students are mastering leadership, reasoning and social-emotional concepts. Ohio also needs to address its reliance on standardized assessments in academic content areas so students have multiple ways to demonstrate what they know and are able to do. The State Board of Education is examining the use of alternative tools such as student portfolios or performance-based assessments to determine knowledge.
- Moving toward a balanced kindergarten readiness assessment: A kindergarten readiness assessment helps gauge the preparedness of students entering kindergarten and the effectiveness of early childhood education initiatives, but there are challenges with administrating the assessment. The Department has launched an advisory group to continue to improve the kindergarten readiness assessment.
Strategy 6: Refine the state’s accountability system to be a fairer, more meaningful process that reflects all four equal learning domains.
- The purpose of Ohio’s accountability system is to gauge performance of state-, district- and school-level education systems and identify areas that need improvement so each student is on a path to success. But feedback from the field suggests the system needs to have a more balanced, robust set of reporting measures. A committee of State Board of Education members and external stakeholders closely examined the state’s report card in light of this strategy and developed high-level recommendations last July. Additional meetings continued into the fall of 2018, and the recommendations were refined with specific changes for the report card measures. More recommendations for longer-term improvements are expected soon.
- Identifying measurements and providing information to gauge progress: As Ohio shifts its system of standards, assessments and accountability to value all four equal learning domains, it will need to modify and enhance how it provides feedback to schools across all the domains — especially leadership and reasoning skills and social-emotional learning.
Next week’s EdConnection will explore strategy 7, which seeks to bring partners together to work collectively to meet the needs of the whole child.