How Quickly Things Can Change – HB 487 and ODE

House Bill 487 takes effect today. Back in July, I posted a blog item hailing HB 487 and the benefit it will have for independent schools in Ohio. At the time, I could not foresee the lack of logic that would come with the “interpretation” of HB 487 provided by the Ohio Department of Education.

To briefly recap where ISACS accredited schools have been in Ohio starts with HB 59, the biennial budget. Through HB 59, ISACS accredited schools were exempted from the end-of-course exam requirements passed as part of HB 1 in 2009. ISACS accredited schools, however, agreed to submit to the mandatory national assessment of college and career readiness. The State Board of Education, wrongfully believing that Ohio schools issue an “Ohio diploma” (no such thing exists), then passed a resolution requiring these students to achieve a “passing” score on the ACT (another thing that does not exist) and pay for the mandatory state assessment themselves (unheard of in Ohio). To correct the errors of the State Board of Education, HB 487, among other things, blocked the State Board of Education from exceeding its statutory authority any further by prohibiting additional testing requirements and specified that the ACT/SAT opt out exists for all chartered nonpublic schools (instead of just ISACS accredited schools), but delayed the imposition of the opt out for a year and established a study committee to research the issue more and make recommendations.
Here’s where the lack of logic I mentioned above kicks in: After HB 487’s passage, ODE’s legal department “interpreted” HB 487 to declare that all chartered nonpublic students entering 9th grade this year, even those previously exempted from the exams in HB 59, would have to take the exams this year. Making this even more absurd is the acknowledgement that these same students will be covered by the exemption in October of next year, which means this year’s exams are irrelevant as to whether or not a student graduates from a nonpublic school and the exams essentially become a waste of time and money.
The committee established by HB 487 and the General Assembly’s lame duck session hold hope for correcting this egregious error in reading a statute. ODE often likes to talk about what it is that it’s doing to help the boys and girls of Ohio. It’s tough to figure out how making them take useless exams does anything to help anyone. Our boys and girls deserve better.