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June 3, 2008
Section: Editorials

Stark's challenge to Fingerhut

When Eric Fingerhut, chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, came to Stark State College on Friday, he heard an outburst of local passion about an issue the Ohio Graduation Test that he probably didn't expect. We were pleased to see the issue raised in a public forum, and we thank retired Judge W. Donald Reader for keeping it alive. It is even more important now that the state is allowing more high school students to take college courses.
The Ohio Department of Education gives a private contractor millions of dollars a year to design and grade the Ohio Graduation Test "one of the biggest wastes of money" Reader knows of, he told Fingerhut.

Ohio high school students must pass this test to graduate, but they can't use it as a college entrance exam. In contrast, Michigan and some other states use the ACT college entrance exam as their high school graduation test.

Reader is chairman of the board of the Stark Education Partnership, whose study of the issue in 2004 determined that, except for social studies, ACT assessments "do an adequate to excellent job of measuring Ohio's academic content standards at the 10th grade and beyond into the 11th and 12th grades." With tweaking, "the match becomes even more compelling."

The study urged the state to give waivers to school districts that want to use the ACT instead of the OGT. As Reader told Fingerhut to rueful laughter from the audience the Department of Education invited districts apply for the waiver, but in the next breath said it would turn the waivers down.

"Give us a waiver, and we will prove we can do it," Reader concluded to applause.

As Fingerhut had said earlier in the session, Stark County leads the state in the number of school districts that offer the new Seniors to Sophomore programs, allowing high school students to take college courses for credit. Stark has been way ahead of this curve for years, having offered early-college programs before they became so popular in Columbus. In its study, the Stark Education Partnership had asked the state to give districts, such as Canton City, that have Early College High Schools extra consideration for waivers.

Will the state now truly reward such innovation, by allowing districts to employ a more useful graduation-college entrance test? Thanks to Judge Reader, the ball back is back in Columbus' court.

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