No more PARCC exams

One huge line item was missing Tuesday when Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed the new $71.2 billion biennial budget into law: Controversial PARCC exams, which drove complaints this year from parents and educators alike, were cut.

House Bill 64, the state operating budget, dumped funding for the standardized math and language arts tests as Ohio withdrew from the 12-state Common Core consortium.

The compromise bill leaves the Ohio Department of Education scrambling to find a new test provider with about a month and a half to go before the fall semester begins.

“They actual theory behind the test, I think, was pretty good but when you get into administration of the test that’s where a lot of the concern was,” said George Viebranz, Oberlin’s retiring curriculum director.

The classroom standards set by the Common Core remain solid, he said. The sequencing and pacing of the curriculum is another story.

For example, Viebranz said Oberlin educators scrambled to teach complex end-of-year math concepts by the time mid-February testing rolled around and students simply didn’t have a firm grasp on them yet.

The big question is how the annual state report card will reflect test results and whether there will be any funding impact to our local districts.

“Any of the data on the report card based on these tests I would regard as suspect,” Viebranz said.

There is a strong possibility the state will put a “safe harbor” policy in place for the next three years because there is so much turmoil over testing methods and how to use data from exams.

In the meantime, the Oberlin Schools are likely to use their own in-house “critical focus area” assessments this fall to gauge what students retained from the previous year.

The biennial budget also outlines state funding to public schools.

It includes provisions for a $955 million increase in basic aid for kindergarten through 12th grade schools and guarantees no district will fall below its 2015 funding level.

There’s also a line item for an additional $20 million per year for testing, though it doesn’t stipulate what company’s standardized tests will be purchased.

District treasurer Angela Dotson said she plans to present an Oberlin-specific analysis at the July meeting of the board of education.

Projections have wavered over recent months, at first indicating Oberlin would get a funding increase of $20,000. That figure briefly ballooned to $200,000 before returning to $20,000, she said.

Other provisions of Ohio’s new two-fiscal year budget include:

• A 6.3 percent decrease to personal income tax rates for all Ohioans.

• A continued 75 percent tax cut for small businesses earning less than $250,000 in business income, falling to a 100 percent cut in fiscal year 2017.

• A new three percent flat tax rate for businesses with income above $250,000.

• $286 million to increase home- and community-based services for Ohioans with disabilities.

• New policies focusing on welfare benefits for residents ages 16 to 24.

• Enhanced maternal services through Medicaid health plans with the aim of reducing the infant mortality rate.

• A budget freeze for tuition at two- and four-year state-supported colleges and universities.

“At a time when many other states are struggling with fiscal challenges, Ohio’s new state budget is among the strongest, thanks to conservative budgeting and smart management,” said a release from Kasich’s office. “The result is an economic climate friendly to job creators and a formula for future prosperity that helps more Ohioans participate in our state’s economic revival.”

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.