Blank page in OGT confuses students

Joanne Bello

A writing section of the Ohio Graduation Test is being redesigned because some students were getting confused by it.

“A blank page between the two writing prompts caused confusion for some students, who did not proceed with the second writing prompt and thought they finished that section of the Ohio Graduation Test,” said J.C. Benton, an Ohio Department of Education spokesman.

The confusion came from the page that said “This page is intentionally left blank.” Benton said that the page was left blank to allow students to take notes, write out their thoughts and plan for the next essay.

Preliminary data from quality control tests the department administered showed less than 4 percent of students failed the second section of the essay, Benton said. This had been consistent with previous administrations of the test.

The Department of Education learned of the problem when it received 113 complaint calls from school districts around the state and one phone call from a concerned parent, Benton said.

“We have listened to concerns from our schools, and we are taking steps to ensure that both the test booklet and answer booklet are clearer, more intuitive documents that leave no doubt for students or for test proctors,” Benton said.

Roger Sidoti, principal of Theodore Roosevelt High School, said out of the 300-some students that took the test, about a dozen failed.

“When you have kids who are under a lot of pressure to perform well I can understand how they just missed the section,” Sidoti said. “The state had a responsibility to these kids.”

The state is seeing to it that multiple efforts are being made to ensure that confusion doesn’t happen in the future.

“We’re going to intensify our efforts to provide a more heightened awareness of the importance of test instructions,” Benton said. “We will be sending out rolling reminders at the time of each test administration throughout the year to superintendents and district test coordinators. We want to make sure that proctors receive the proper training.

“For instance, their responsibility is to keep students on task, but it’s also their responsibility to remind students to complete all parts on the test. We will send these kinds of messages to the field.”

Kent City Schools Superintendent Marc Crail said he isn’t surprised that this happened.

“The chances for screw-ups are great,” Crail said. “Stuff happens all the time. Someone could be walking down the hall with the tests in hand and end up tripping and dropping them. It’s unrealistic to think there won’t be screw-ups with hundreds of thousands of students around the state.”

The same design was used in the previous years exams, and Benton said he is unsure why people chose this year to complain .

“To remedy any confusion, we’re going to add onto the blank page on the answer booklet between the prompts: ‘Turn Page to Continue to Prompt Two,'” Benton said. “The test booklet also will say ‘Turn Page to Continue the Test.'”

The test is given to sophomores every year in hopes that they will pass all five portions: reading, writing, citizenship, math and science.

Sidoti said usually about 75 percent of students pass the test their first time. The remaining 25 percent of students who fail can retake the test four to six times until they pass. That goes for the confusing writing portion. Each student must pass the test or they can not graduate.

Students will see the newly redesigned writing portion next year.

Contact public affairs reporter Joanne Bello at [email protected].