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Ohio Legislature Checks to See Where the Bread Is Buttered Today
Ohanian Comment: How many politicans can dance on a dollar bill--without tripping over the Business Roundtable?

COLUMBUS - Sixteen years ago, as lawmakers finished work on the state budget, a state senator put a rider on the massive bill that created proficiency tests -- with no public debate.

Since then, proficiency tests have been used to pillory school districts -- mostly in urban areas -- and to provide justification for the state takeover of the Cleveland Public Schools system.

Poor proficiency test scores were used to open the door to voucher and charter schools in Ohio. A national school funding expert relied on the test scores to determine the base amount the state should guarantee to provide every child with an adequate education.

Now -- with federal money at stake -- some state lawmakers maintain the proficiency test standards are too difficult to comply with the No Child Left Behind Act.

If the state can't produce better results, at least $356 million in federal aid could be lost.

When representatives passed House Bill 3 on Wednesday, they lowered the standards for school districts to comply with No Child Left Behind -- and to keep the federal money flowing into state coffers -- but maintained higher state standards that determine whether a district is considered failing or successful.

That could be a problem: The Legislative Service Commission, in an unusual warning to lawmakers, said that the federal law prohibits trying to establish lower scores to receive federal dollars while holding schools to higher state standards. The potential consequence: revocation of Title I money.

Rep. Kevin DeWine, R-Fairborn, said Ohio's proficiency tests, compared to other states' testing, are more difficult, and it would not be fair to use those scores as a national yardstick.

``We're not lowering our standards. We're not changing the tests. We're not lowering the cut scores. We're not changing the curricula or academic standards. We're putting Ohio kids on a level playing field when it comes to federal reporting,'' DeWine said.

— Doug Oplinger and Dennis J. Willard
Bill lowers standards to get federal money
Beacon Journal
May 26, 2003


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