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Value-Added Testing Now Ruining County Fairs?

So I bet you never stopped to consider the effects of teacher-evaluation reform on county fairs. I can't say that we have, either, but apparently this has become a not insignificant matter in the town of Cardington, Ohio.

Starting next school year, teachers in Ohio will be evaluated, in part, on the basis of their students' performance on state assessments, as measured via a value-added formula. In order to have more time to prepare their students for the tests—and, it sounds like, to do some benchmark assessing—teachers and administrators in the Cardington-Lincoln school district have proposed starting the school year a little earlier. But there's a hitch: The earlier start date would mean that schools would be in session during the county's fair week.

That potential scheduling conflict sparked what sounds like some serious soul-searching at a recent county school board meeting. While the district superintendent insisted that teachers need the extra time to work with students, other attendees questioned the value of still more testing in schools. More pointedly, they stressed the importance of the fair to the area's civic life and, not least, to children's overall development.

"I was a 4-H mem­ber and we're talk­ing about students who are good stu­dents in this school district and are good students because of their 4-H back­ground and their participation at the county level," one board member said. "We have discipline problems in our county because we don't have enough kids participating in activ­i­ties like 4-H and learning to make the best better."

Alternative solutions floated at the meeting include changing the fair date or starting school before the fair but taking the week of the fair off. In the end, however, the board decided to leave the whole difficult matter unresolved, agreeing to take it up again next month.

In the meantime, file this one under things policymakers definitely don't consider when crafting school-improvement laws.

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