Takeaways from the Ohio Department of Education's Straight-Talk Express

Christina Hank is a curriculum director in Medina.

This post is by guest author Christina Hank.

I always enjoy attending the Straight Talk discussions the Ohio Department of Education runs at these conferences because they are an opportunity to hear concerns from across the state and get answers from the top (based on most current information, of course). The discussion at Ohio's 2012 Annual Statewide Education Conference this week was no different.

The major concerns in Thursday's session focused on the "Big Three:" PARCC assessments (the new standardized tests coming to Ohio schools in 2014-15), technology and the Third Grade Reading Guarantee.

In updated and clarified PARCC news, the End of Course and End of Year exams in high school courses will account for anywhere between 20-30 percent of a student's grade in the course. I heard that and immediately started calculating all the ways a student could still pass even if he or she failed the assessment, but wait--guidelines will be set for the other 70-80 percent to ensure equity across the state.

In typical fashion, attendees at Straight Talk were wary of the technology requirements for the new PARCC tests.

Yes, these assessments are still going to be online. No, there hasn't been a decision on what tools, infrastructure, etc. will be required.

Specifically, PARCC hasn't decided if iPads will work for taking the tests. That news sparked an understandable general murmur from the crowd, especially from staff from districts that recently invested in sets of iPads.

Acting Ohio Department of Education chief Michael Sawyers's recommendation for any school making new purchases was to ensure they meet PARCC guidelines. I hope that the state's decisions about tests and technology scheduled to be made by spring of 2013 will help us all figure out how we are going to make this happen in two years.

[Note: Read more dispatches from the Ohio Department of Education's Straight Talk sessions on Hank's blog, Turn on Your Brain.]

Christina Hank is the secondary curriculum coordinator at Medina City Schools. StateImpact Ohio invited her to help us cover the Ohio Annual Statewide Education Conference in Columbus. She has previously worked as a high school English teacher and an ELA specialist at the Ohio Resource Center. She has a master's degree in education from Ashland University and a bachelor's degree in English from Ohio State University. She blogs at Turn On Your Brain.

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