District Nets High Scores

NEW BREMEN — As New Bremen schools celebrated an 87 percent pass rate on the third-grade Reading Achievement Test, up from 61 percent two years ago, the excitement was tempered by the reminder that the district may soon face more testing and scrutiny thanks to a bill recently passed by the Ohio House of Representatives.

Superintendent Howard Overman warned the New Bremen Board of Education on Wednesday that if House Bill 555 becomes law, it would both increase the rigor of standardized testing and set a higher bar for the number of students required to pass the test.

New Bremen High School has been a pilot school for one aspect of the bill, a stipulation that students must pass standardized exams at the end of certain classes that will count toward 20 to 30 percent of the student’s grade in the class. A total of 10 exams would replace the current Ohio Graduation Tests, and those tests will be part of the class grading.

“If that becomes 20 to 30 percent of the grade, we’ll have to look at our grading window,” he told board members.

“Teachers are really nervous about it. If it’s that rigorous, what’s on it?”

The extra evaluation would extend to the schools also, changing the current rating system for schools to letter grades instead of the less concrete system in place now. The school district’s current rating, Overman said, is “Excellent,” but in letter grades, that’s considered a ‘B.’

Legislators feel parents will be able to better understand the letter grading system, he said.

The school will also be evaluated on how many students take the SAT, what those students’ scores are, and how many students take advanced placement classes, despite the school not having a very large selection of AP classes, he said.

While the bill is expected to come up for vote again sometime in the next week, teachers are watching to see what their classes will look like in upcoming years, and whether their grading in the classroom will change with new legislation.

Meanwhile, school leaders are working aggressively to address any lower performing students to close performance gaps.

Middle School Principal Jason Schrader met individually with all students receiving ‘D’s or ‘F’s on their interim grade reports. Elementary School Principal Diane Kramer reported to the Board of Education that she believes the third graders will be at 100 percent passing the Reading Achievement Test, thanks to after school intervention for students who did not pass. She’s also working with nine area districts to write a grant to purchase intervention kits and professional development for teachers who teach reading to students at the lower levels.

She’s also met with students of parents who are not on track in reading.

In Overman’s mind, teachers are doing everything they can to improve student’s scores already, but the questions they have directed to legislators about how the new legislation might affect their classrooms haven’t yet been answered.