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Forces and Factors Affecting Ohio Proficiency Test Performance:
A Study of 593 Ohio School Districts

Randy L. Hoover, Ph.D.
Department of Teacher Education
Beeghly College of Education
Youngstown State University
Youngstown, Ohio

Section One
Overview

      The following pages contain information, data, analysis, and summary findings regarding a major study of Ohio school district performance on the 1997 Ohio Proficiency Tests (OPT). The data are for 593 of the 611 Ohio School districts. Data for 18 districts were excluded due to either missing test scores or because of their extremely small size such as North Bass Island. A complete list of the districts used in the study and the basic data for those districts may be found in the appendix to this study.

      This study examines the 593 Ohio districts on all sections of the 1997 fourth-grade, sixth-grade, ninth-grade, and twelfth-grade tests. Thus, as the outcome measure of district performance, the study uses 16 sets of scores for each Ohio School district. All data used in this study are taken directly from the online Ohio Department of Education’s Educational Management Information System (EMIS) of the State of Ohio and have not been derived from any secondary source. The variables examined against the 1997 district test data are also from the 1997 EMIS collection. The data from 1997 were selected for analysis because they are the most recent online data available from the Ohio Department of Education and the State of Ohio. and they are the most complete data available that is easily accessed by the public.

      The data were analyzed using linear regression and Pearson’s correlation (Pearson’s r) procedures. A simplified explanation of the analysis is contained in the next section. However, it is important to point out that the statistical analyses used are very simple an very straightforward in terms of the range of potentially very complex statistical procedures. The statistical operations used in the study are quite typical of those used across many fields and disciplines including medicine, marketing, political science, and economics.

      While certain results may call for additional and more sophisticated analysis, the results contained herein speak for themselves and for the power of basic statistical analysis. Further, given the power of the primary results of the procedures and the statistical significance of those results, no additional more complex procedures were deemed necessary to achieve the basic ends of the study.

      As with any research of education and social phenomena, there is always room for interpretation and reflective judgment. While this certainly applies to this particular study, the basic finding regarding district-level Ohio Proficiency test performance is remarkably clear: Performance on the Ohio Proficiency Test is most significantly related to the social-economic living conditions and experiences of the pupils to the extent that the tests are found to have no academic nor accountability validity whatsoever.

      It is extremely important to know that findings do not single out students and districts in which levels of disadvantagement are high as being the only sector where the test is invalid. The findings clearly indicate that the range of performance across all social economic levels lacks validity in terms of assessing academic performance. Rejection of the findings regarding OPT validity (accepting the State of Ohio’s interpretation of OPT results) means that we accept the position that wealth defines academic intelligence, that the wealthier the students the more intelligent than less wealthy students. This position is absurd even at a common sense level; money does not define academic intelligence or learning capabilities.

      Part of the problem in understanding OPT for what it is (or is not) rests in understanding that there are many different variables that affect how, what and whether a child learns in school. Explicit in the OPT program and State of Ohio policies on school district accountability is the assumption that these high stakes tests accurately assess student academic achievement and that all students are the same in terms of how, what, and whether they learn. The findings of this study contradict this assumption.

      Implicit in the claims and slogans of the those who are using the OPT and Ohio School Report Cards (OSRC) to assess public education in Ohio is the idea that district OPT performance is determined by one variable-- the teacher. Interestingly, the OPT proponents are often using the test more of an indicator of school district and teacher performance than of student performance as witnessed by the force of the Ohio School Report Cards. The results of this study show that neither student academic learning, school district effectiveness, nor teacher effectiveness are validly measured by these tests. Indeed, the findings indicate that OPT results and OSRC ratings are, in most cases, extremely misleading at best.

      Contained within the subsequent sections of this study are the primary and secondary findings of the study. Each section covers a particular variable or related set of variables and uses graphs and narrative to attempt to explain the meaning and the significance of the findings being discussed. Though the primary research interest motivating this study is OPT district-level performance, this study would be incomplete without some analysis and discussion of the Ohio School Report Cards since OSRC is driven primarily by OPT district-level performance. Therefore, there is a section dealing with the validity problems of OSRC as related to the primary findings of the study of OPT district performance.

| Home |
| 1-Overview || 2-FAQ || 3-Primary Findings || 4-Actual Performance | | 5-Funding Variables |
| 6-Teacher Data || 7-Race || 8-OSRC || 9-Closing Statement || Appendix-Top Performing Districts |