Cuyahoga Falls -- Seventeen members of the Superintendent's Association of Summit County have composed a letter expressing "concerns" regarding the recent State Report Card results issued by the Ohio Department of Education. The group also says it wants to work with the state to improve the system.

A press release from the group issued March 16 said the superintendents believe the State Report Card "does not truly reflect the quality of education offered in each respective district and the validity of the results is in question."

Joe Iacano, superintendent of the Summit County Educational Services Center, said in the release that the report card "fails to show the high-quality education the districts are currently providing,"

"Even our districts that did well on the report card are voicing their concern," he added.

The March 10 letter has been sent to the Ohio Department of Education's interim superintendent, Dr. Lonny Rivera, as well as state board of education members, state senators and representatives and members of the Ohio Senate and House education committees.

In addition to Iacano's signature, the letter was signed by superintendents from the Barberton, Copley-Fairlawn, Coventry, Cuyahoga Falls, Field, Hudson, Manchester, Mogadore, Nordonia Hills, Norton, Revere, Springfield, Stow-Munroe Falls, Tallmadge, and Woodridge city and local school districts, as well as the Portage Lakes Career Center.

Ohio Department of Education spokesperson Brittany Halpin said March 17 the state had not received the letter, but was aware some districts had expressed criticisms regarding online versus paper test results.

But the Summit County superintendents' concerns went beyond paper versus online testing.

"We join districts across the state who are becoming increasingly frustrated with the constantly changing reporting system, the lack of validity and reliability of the tests, and the inconsistency with which the tests are implemented," Nordonia Hills City Schools Superintendent Dr. Joe Clark said in an email to the News Leader.

"In short, we do not feel the report card accurately reflects the quality of education students receive in our districts," Clark stated.

Jeff Ferguson, Tallmadge City School District's superintendent, said the quality of education in Tallmadge is "quite good," adding the report card doesn't give the entire picture when it comes to the quality of education.

"The report card fails to display everything Tallmadge, and many of our surrounding school districts have to offer and the many things we all do well," he added. "Tallmadge is comprised of a hardworking group of staff and students and I am proud of our district, as my fellow superintendents are proud of their districts."

In the letter, superintendents challenge the validity of recently published testing results, citing "profoundly different" results between districts where students took assessment tests online versus districts where students took paper tests.

"The online and paper tests are comparable," Halpin said in the March 17 email. "In fact, after extensive review, highly credentialed teams of experts from leading universities and organizations such as NASA validated that the state's online tests and written exams are comparable - with no advantage offered by either mode of testing over the other."

The superintendents group also says current testing "penalizes school districts for promoting college and career readiness programs.

"It forces school districts to choose between looking good on a report card or providing opportunities for students. This makes no sense," the letter states.

The letter also cites a Governor's Office declaration that states students and school personnel may not be evaluated based on the test results.

"We are further concerned about the inconsistency of the testing from year to year," the letter states. "The inconsistency causes significant negative issues and confusion for our personnel and our district's citizens. The state has asked us to invest in technology to support online testing. We are asking the state address inconsistencies in the existing testing system."

The letter states the group wants to work with state officials to improve the system.

"We desire to be a part of a constructive solution and offer our support in creating that solution. We look forward to a dialog so we may work together," the letter states.

Eric Marotta: 330-541-9433

emarotta@recordpub.com