The Ohio House of Representatives was all out of sorts over the past week at the notion of increasing the number of calamity days for school districts across the state. What was initially thought to be a simple piece of legislation that would be fast-tracked when it was proposed the day after Governor Kasich called for it turned out to hit a wall with many House Republicans. The initial delay of its adoption by the House was the question of cost, specifically whether it was a waste of millions of dollars to pay “teachers for days they didn’t work” (Gerald Stebelton, House Education Committee Chair).
Interestingly enough, Republicans in the Ohio General Assembly haven’t had much problem with this notion in recent years as they have passed legislation requiring more and more standardized testing in Ohio’s schools.
Next year, we’ll be implementing a new Kindergarten Readiness Assessment for every child in Kindergarten, delivered one-on-one, and completed before November. How many days of instruction will these Kindergarten teachers lose in order to conduct these assessments? 2? 3? With the window open through November 1, the state seems to imply that it should take a considerable amount of time — and shouldn’t it in order to be done correctly?
On top of that, Ohio’s new Third Grade Reading Guarantee law requires that each child in Kindergarten, first, second, and third grade be administered a standardized diagnostic reading test to assess their reading level. These tests must be administered to all students before September 30.
On top of THAT, schools must administer a mathematics diagnostic assessment to all students in grades one and two, and a writing diagnostic assessment to all students in grades one, two, and three at least once during the school year.
Let’s start keeping a tally of the days of instruction lost since we’re only getting started.
- Kindergarten teachers are losing: 2 days for Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (conservatively), 1 day for reading diagnostic (optimistically)
- Grade 1 teachers: 1 day for reading diagnostic, 1 day for math diagnostic, 1 day for writing diagnostic (again, optimistically)
- Grade 2 teachers: 1 day for reading diagnostic, 1 day for math diagnostic, 1 day for writing diagnostic
At Grade 3, we add in the Ohio Achievement Assessments (OAA), so their loss of instructional days changes:
- 1 day for reading diagnostic, 1 day for writing diagnostic, half day for October Reading OAA, half day for April Math OAA, half day for April Reading OAA [note that the half-day only applies to "traditional" students and many students receive special accommodations which provides for extended testing time which is typically a full day; we're strictly calculating minimum days]
At Grade 4 and above, the numbers of days lost to state-mandated tests are as follows:
- Grade 4 teachers; half day for Math OAA & half day for Reading OAA
- Grade 5 teachers; half day for Math OAA, half day for Reading OAA, half day for Science OAA
- Grade 6 teachers; half day for Math OAA & half day for Reading OAA
- Grade 7 teachers; half day for Math OAA & half day for Reading OAA
- Grade 8 teachers; half day for Math OAA, half day for Reading OAA, half day for Science OAA
At high school, the entire school schedule is typically disrupted during the traditional March OGT administration for all 10th grade students, so every high school teacher typically loses 5 half days of instructional time (5 tests, 5 days) as they are put to work being test monitors/proctors.
Also at the high school level, since many students aren’t successful on their first attempt, the test administration windows in subsequent years disrupt the instructional time for 11th and 12th grade teachers — a number that varies widely among school districts, but is real nonetheless.
Now lets look at an estimate of the collective days of instruction lost based on numbers from the Ohio Department of Education. According to the ODE, the student:teacher ratio is just under 20, so we’ll generously round up for ease of calculation and to keep our numbers on the conservative side. Based on that number, here are the estimated number of teachers for the grades directly affected by the standardized testing phenomenon:
When we add in the column for days lost of instruction for each teacher, here’s what it looks like:
In the end, using conservative estimates, teachers and students are losing at least 184,555 total days of instructional time to the process of standardized testing. What’s the cost of that, both in REAL dollars and the cost to our students?
If we use the numbers bandied about by House Republicans, the average Ohio teacher’s salary in 2013 was $56,307. Divide that by the 182 day school year (as the GOP members did) and we get roughly $309/day. At $309/day, with 184,555 days lost to legislatively mandated tests, Ohio law mandates that we spend over $57 million each year to pay our teachers to NOT instruct our students.
By the way, if you’re wondering about the actual cost of administering and scoring these tests, those numbers exist too, at least for the OAAs and OGTs. The Ohio Department of Education started charging districts for replacement tests back in 2010 at a cost of $25 per test to merely “help” cover the cost. So in addition to the incalculable cost of the loss of instructional time, what is the actual cost of administering all of the OAA and OGT tests?
The total cost of administering OAAs and OGTs comes to $65,731,500.00 annually.
If we combine these two amounts we come up with a (conservative) total of how much Ohio’s legislators have mandated that we spend each year to have our teachers NOT instruct our children.
$57,097,463.65 (paid to teachers to give tests)
$65,731,500.00 (cost of testing program)
Ohio’s Republican-dominated General Assembly has created laws that require us to spend nearly $123 million each year to NOT instruct our children and they’re complaining about some snow days (for which they already created a law that will render the problem moot next year)?
What’s next? Will the Ohio’s House GOP members complain about their tiring schedule that has them working 3 days a week (sometimes) for about 5-6 months a year?