Ohio HS Sr, 6th in his class, refused diploma for refusing to take Ohio Proficiency Test
- -------- Original Message --------
Date: Sun, 05 Jun 2005 21:13:20
From: Peter Farruggio <pfarr@...>
Subject: [KPFAed] "Someone has to say no."
ED: I'm sure some of you have heard of the case of John Wood. Last
weekend, this Ohio principal's son missed graduation and did not receive
his high school diploma, although his GPA placed him in the top percentile
of his class. Wood was making a political protest by refusing to take the
Ohio Proficiency Test, arguing that the test was unnecessary and
discriminated against low-income and minority students. His below
commentary was published in a local newspaper last week:
The Athens News, Athen County's Only Locally Owned Newspaper 2005-06-02
Here are the reasons why I didn't graduate from Federal Hocking last
By John Wood
Sunday was my high-school graduation. However, despite being ranked sixth
in my class, I did not cross the stage or receive a diploma. I did not
drop out at the last minute and I was not expelled. I didn't graduate
because I refused to take the Ohio Proficiency Tests.
I did this because I believe these high-stakes tests (which are required
for graduation) are biased, irrelevant and unnecessary.
The bias of these tests is demonstrated by Ohio's own statistics. They
show consistently that schools with high numbers of low-income and/or
minority students score lower on state tests. It is argued (in defense of
that this is not the test's fault, that the scores are only a reflection
of the deeper social economic injustices. This is very likely true. What
makes the test biased is the fact that the state does little or nothing to
compensate for the differences that the students experience outside the
In fact, the state only worsens the situation with its funding system.
Ohio's archaic school-funding system underfunds schools in poorer areas
because it is based on property taxes. The way we fund our schools has
been declared unconstitutional four times, and yet the state Legislature
refuses to fix the problem.
The irrelevance of these tests is also demonstrated by state statistics --
in this case, the lack of them. In 13 years of testing, Ohio has failed to
conduct any studies linking scores on the proficiency test to college
acceptance rates, college grades, income levels, incarceration rates,
dropout rates, scores on military recruiting tests, or any other similar
State officials have stated that it would be too difficult or costly to
keep track of their students after high school but I find this hard to
believe. My high school is tracking my class for five years with help from
the Coalition of Essential Schools. Certainly, the state, with all its
bureaucrats, could do the same.
Both of these factors, the test's biases and irrelevance, contribute to
making it unnecessary. This system is so flawed it should not be used to
determine whether or not students should graduate.
More importantly, a system already exists for determining when students
are ready to graduate. The ongoing assessment by teachers who spend hours
with the students is more than sufficient for determining when they are
ready to graduate.
However this assessment is being undermined by a focus on test preparation
that has eliminated many advanced courses and enrichment experiences.
Additionally, since the tests do not and cannot measure things such as
critical thinking, the ability to work with others, public speaking, and
other characteristics of democratic citizenship, these things are pushed
aside while we spend more time memorizing for tests.
After almost a decade and a half of testing, many people cannot imagine
what could be done in place of high-stakes testing, but here in southeast
Ohio, alternative assessments are alive and kicking. At my school, Federal
Hocking High School, every senior has to complete a senior project (I
built a kayak), compile a graduation portfolio, and defend his or her work
in front of a panel of teachers in order to graduate. These types of
performance assessments are much more individualized and authentic, and
are certainly difficult, something I can attest to, having completed them
There may be a place for standardized testing in public education, but it
should not be used to determine graduation.
Because of these reasons, I decided to take a stand against the Ohio
Proficiency Tests, even though it would cost me my graduation and diploma.
But why such a drastic measure? The reason is simple; someone has to say
no. Education is the key to maintaining our democracy, and I have become
disgusted by the indifference displayed by lawmakers who make statements
about the value of public education while continuing to fail to fairly and
adequately fund it or commit to performance-based assessments.
I have written a number of state senators and representatives from both
parties recommending the state allow districts to set alternatives to
high-stakes tests for graduation. Having done everything required for
graduation but take the tests, I thought I would provide them an
opportunity to rethink testing. Sadly, I have not received a response from
any of them, even after personally approaching and rewriting them.
What this has taught me is that one voice is not enough, and to make a
difference in our democracy, the people must speak with a unified voice. I
encourage everyone concerned about the damage being done by high-stakes
testing and inadequate funding of public education to speak out. Join me
in just saying no to high-stakes testing.
Editor's note: John Wood is a non-graduate of Federal Hocking High School
in Stewart. He will be attending Warren Wilson College in Ashville, N.C.