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Test scores rise for Ohio students, early report says

Ohio students increased proficiency levels on 15 of 16 state tests given to students in grades 3 through 8 this past school year, according to preliminary data in an Ohio Department of Education report.

The document from state Superintendent Paolo DeMaria cautioned that the test data still has to be verified by schools and districts, so the scores and the school report cards based on them won’t be finished until September.

Proficiency improvements were most dramatic on elementary and middle school English tests, ranging from 5 to 10 percentage points higher than the previous year. Student proficiency went up 1 percentage point on science tests and 2 to 3 points on social studies tests.

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“We should all be very pleased that the numbers in Grade 3 and frankly, across this table, are good in terms of the increases we’re seeing,” DeMaria said.

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The only test on which Ohio elementary and middle school students saw scores decline was the fifth-grade math test, where the proficiency level dropped by less than one percentage point. Middle school math proficiency rates went up by less than 2 points, while most elementary school math scores went up by 3 to 6 points.

This was the second year that Ohio students took this set of tests, created by the American Institutes for Research, after bouncing from test to test the previous few years. Ohio Department of Education officials have often said they expected scores to go down at first on the new, harder tests, then gradually rise as teachers and students become more familiar with them.

Raw proficiency rates were 56 to 66 percent on most pre-high school English tests, with eighth grade down at 47 percent. Proficiency on pre-high school math tests was about 70 percent in third and fourth grade, and 52 to 59 percent in fifth through eighth grade. Proficiency was higher than 60 percent on all four science and social studies tests.

State school board member Charlotte McGuire, who represents much of the Miami Valley, asked for data on how many students would be retained under the Third Grade Reading Guarantee provisions. But DeMaria said schools are still in the process of summer school re-testing, so those numbers are not solid yet.

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DeMaria’s report said the preliminary high school test data is harder to track, because the state is unable to differentiate yet which tests were retakes vs. first-time attempts.

Students doing retakes are generally those who had scored poorly on previous exams. Chris Woolard, senior director of accountability for ODE, confirmed that a large influx of retakes could skew the overall proficiency rate.

For example, the proficiency rate on the high school physical science exam dropped 13 percent, but that’s likely because almost everyone taking that test was a re-taker, as that subject has been phased out in favor of biology.

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The preliminary high school test data again showed English with the largest proficiency increase, rising between 6 and 7 percentage points on both English I and English II.

All other tests showed a proficiency change of less than 5 percentage points, with algebra and American government up slightly, while geometry, biology and American history were down slightly.

Raw proficiency levels varied widely, from roughly 60 percent on the English and biology tests, to around 45 percent on the math tests, and 70 percent on history and government.

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Those high school tests make up one of the pathways to graduation for Ohio students. But DeMaria’s presentation Monday to the state school board said it was too early to project these scores’ impact on any year’s graduation rate.

“Beginning in October, Education Management Information System data will allow for a more nuanced analysis such as progress toward the end-of-course pathway for graduation,” DeMaria wrote.

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