Superintendents with the Akron Area School Superintendents' Association recently announced that feedback the state gathered from the public during regional meetings and online on the new state education plan do not appear to have been included in the plan, according to a letter the association has sent to state officials. They are recommending the state reduce the amount of testing students are required to take, and want the state to get rid of its letter grade rating system.

Nordonia Superintendent Joe Clark, one of several superintendents who signed the letter, told the News Leader that the Every Student Succeeds Act -- the federal education law enacted in 2015 which is currently being implemented -- could be a way to improve the state education system.

"I think the ESSA rollout is a golden opportunity for the state to make significant changes that benefit kids and teachers while developing a meaningful accountability system," Clark said.

Walter Davis, president of the Akron Area School Superintendents' Association and superintendent of Woodridge Local Schools, said the association has a few recommendations that should be taken into consideration as part of the state's new education plan.

"As educators, we have the chance to create assessments and accountability measures that benefit students and truly reflect the needs of Ohio's children today and into the future," said Davis.

Clark said the association believes the state needs to "relieve the mass amounts of testing" students are subjected to.

According to the association, participants at the regional meetings urged the state to reduce the amount of testing, which is allowable under ESSA; however, the proposed state plan maintains the existing levels of testing. "The state of Ohio should follow the requirements under ESSA, which outline that state testing should include grades 3-8 in reading and math, and grades 5 and 8 in science," the association states.

"This is also an opportunity to reduce testing at the high school and replace the end of course exams with the nationally normed ACT or SAT, which are more relevant to our students and their families. All state mandated testing should be consistently maintained for an extended period of time to allow for longitudinal data collection and analysis."

Clark said scaling back testing to federal standards would eliminate several tests students are now required to take, including all social studies tests, some language arts tests and a high school math test.

"We would evaluate learning in social studies by giving the common assessments created by our district like we currently do -- in other words, more local control," Clark said. "More testing won't cause students to learn more; more time for instruction will."

The association also recommends elimination of the letter grade report card system. While ESSA does mandate an accountability measure, it does not require using a letter grade to rate school buildings or districts.

"The added layers of new data and the addition of non-academic measures render the final grade inaccurate. The repeated changes in the report card have also made it confusing and meaningless to parents and community members," says the association.

Several other modifications to state policy regarding accountability were made, as well as recommendations in the following areas:

Educator Effectiveness: "The performance rubric of the OTES/OPES evaluation system is a useful tool and influences educator quality. It has led to rich and valuable conversations that have helped districts enhance the quality of education."

The Association believes the state should eliminate the student growth measures from teacher and principal evaluations. Instead, the Association recommends enhancing the rubric to include evidence regarding the manner in which the educator uses formative assessments to inform instruction which ultimately leads to academic achievement.

Early Childhood Programming: The purpose of early childhood programming is to support the development and well-being of young children and to foster their learning. "The research clearly indicates that we need to capitalize on the brain growth that occurs in the early years of life as a strong foundation for futher learning." The Association states it is concerned that Ohio has not made PreK programming enough of a priority. "As a result, the state has not invested enough in early childhood (PreK) programming."

Wrap-Around Services: Ohio's plan does not include measures to support student mental and emotional well-being. The Association would like to see provisions for professionals to assist with the mental health and opiate issues affecting students and families throughout the state of Ohio.

Other members of the Akron Area School Superintendent's Association who support these recommendations include Tom Bratten, Stow-Munroe Falls; Walter Davis, Woodridge; Jeffrey Ferguson, Tallmadge; Phillip Herman, Hudson; Joseph Iacano, Summit ESC; Dr. Todd Nichols, Cuyahoga Falls; Kathryn Powers, Twinsburg; and Mary Jane Stanchina, Six District Educational Compact.

The Every Student Succeeds Act takes the place of the No Child Left Behind Act, which was enacted in 2002.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the first national education law was the Elementary and Secondary Education Act signed into law in 1965 by President Lyndon Johnson, who believed that "full educational opportunity" should be "our first national goal."

Eric Marotta: 330-541-9433