A bipartisan bill introduced in the Ohio House seeks to reduce the number of end-of-course tests, make ACT/SAT tests voluntary and take the pressure off the third grade reading guarantee.

The cosponsors of the bill — state Rep. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville, and state Rep. Erica Crawley, D-Columbus — said they hope to study the time tests take out of the learning process in schools to decide when testing becomes more of a stressor than a benefit.

“We’ve all been in the classroom, and my guess is none of you’ve fallen in love with a subject because of a test you took,” Manning, a former school teacher, told the House Primary and Secondary Committee while introducing the bill.

House Bill 73 eliminates two requirements: one that mandates high school students take “a nationally standardized college admission assessment,” and another that attaches the ability to hold a child back based on their scores on a third grade reading guarantee test.

For the ACT/SAT tests, beginning with the class of 2023, 11th grade students will only be allowed to take the tests with permission from a parent or guardian, under the bill.

This provision of the bill is similar to another bill introduced in the House in March, which would make the ACT voluntary and lay the costs of the test on the districts rather than the state.

Beginning in the 2021-22 school year, the bill says the state Board of Education would no longer designate a “level of achievement” for a student to be promoted to the fourth grade.

Manning said failing a student because of one test grade didn’t make sense and wasn’t the case for other classes or grades.

“Even when you take tests in law school, you don’t flunk a whole year,” Manning said.

Beginning with the class of 2024, only four tests would be required for high schoolers, instead of the five required now. Reducing the number would be the result of combining the American history and government exams.

Current law states school districts can only spend up to two percent of the school year on state testing, and one percent taking practice or “diagnostic” assessments.

If the bill passes, a work group must be formed in each school district, community school and STEM school “to examine the amount of time students spend on district or school-required testing,” according to bill language.

The work group would be made up of a superintendent, curriculum/testing administrator, three building principals, three classroom teachers chosen by the local teachers’ association and three parents.

That group would examine the time spent on testing, the current testing calendar, purpose of testing, use and financial cost of testing, which would then be sent to the Ohio Department of Education for an annual report.

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.