A-F Report Card: CRAIG HOCKENBERRY THREE RIVERS SUPERINTENDENT
A-F Report Card (CRAIG HOCKENBERRY)
I write this as a concerned career educator.
As one who has taught and served as an assistant principal, principal and now superintendent and one who worked in urban, rural, and suburban school settings for the past 25 years, I continue to be stunned. Our use of the wrongheaded A-F report card system to “grade” Ohio Public Schools is baffling.
We are killing true education for the sake of a high stakes testing culture. The creative and individual gifts teachers bring to their classrooms are being stunted. The vast majority of parents do not understand the complexities figured into the equations of these school report cards and the majority of our taxpaying public does not either.
I have set high standards for academics in each junction of my career. I still get excited about innovation, excellence, and doing the right things for kids and families as we prepare them for college, the military, and their careers. However, we have gone overboard with testing, and it is killing our profession. (Craig Hockenbery Three Rivers)
I should be able to tell anyone who asks how many different mandated tests we administer in our schools, but I can’t. The number has changed every year in every leadership role I’ve held and in every district I’ve worked.
Education will always be an imperfect endeavor, as we perpetually attempt to find the best ways to teach what our students need to thrive in today’s world. However, it should be obvious that this extensive testing has not contributed to that goal; it sucks the life out of teachers, staff, and administrators and, more importantly, our students.
The A-F report card presents a convoluted, confusing message about the details of what actually happens in our schools each day. It cheapens the stellar work our teachers and principals are doing. I have the privilege of watching some of the most engaging teachers in the State deliver some of the most rigorous lessons to students whose attention they manage to successfully captured. Unfortunately, I observe these teachers, knowing full-well these students—ultimately—had better get ready for the next, upcoming test, and that the teacher had soon better put away the creative and authentic lesson plan.
Because there are various lists, dates, equations, and trivial factoids that need to be remembered for a single day—Test Day.
I am not promoting an entire pivot from all testing. There need to be ways in which academic growth and knowledge are measured. I have no problem with tests being a piece of the measuring equation; however, it must be that—a piece.
We have created a culture of students who are overwhelmed with high stakes testing. The entire month of April and May are consumed with altered class schedules, small group testing, canceled specials, and there are signs on virtually every classroom door:
Anxiety rates and mental health issues are climbing. Suicide rates are reaching all-time highs for junior high and high school-aged students. Saying that testing is the cause of this particular tragedy would be both wrong and irresponsible, but I will ask this: Should schools—to the degree that we are capable—be seeking ways to lessen stress, or should we continue adding to the unnecessary stress of our students?
The sheer volume of testing creates unnecessary stress for both students and teachers.
The A-F report card system is a bad one. It creates a punitive culture, one that has some of our most talented teachers leaving the profession. Like any line of work we need to be held to high standards, but it’s time we get it right.
Getting rid of the A-F system is an excellent starting point.
Craig D. Hockenberry
Former Superintendent Three Rivers Local Schools
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