The Ohio Legislature is confronting the school testing issue. There are several bills in committees, but the most striking action was by the House of Representatives a week ago Wednesday. By a 92-1 vote, it passed a bill that would eliminate the test of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and reducing testing to three hours a year. The PARCC test is part of the Common Core.

It seems likely that the Senate will go along with cutting the amount of testing. If it also agrees to do away with PARCC, then Ohio will join five other states that have rejected the Common Core program.

There is strong opposition to the Common Core from parents, schools and legislatures in about 20 other states.

The 92-1 vote is remarkable. What explains it?

In part, it is because legislators have heard complaints from many parents, teachers and school administrators. 

They also have heard from a group called Ohioans Against Common Core, which support affirming parental control, restoring local control and reducing power of standardized testing.

What legislator wants to speak against that?

The opposition starts with the amount of time being given to testing and the pressure on students and teachers. This is intensified by the way results are handled. The promise was that these tests would help teachers and students know what the students had not learned.

However, what students get is a numerical score three or four weeks after the test. What does the numerical score mean? What does it tell the student or the teacher?

When I was teaching in the Ohio University School of Journalism, I had a communication law class of 80 or 90 students each term. I gave essay tests. At the next class two days later, I returned the test with written comments; we discussed the test question by question.

Students knew exactly which answers were correct and which were not. Students who take the PARCC test are not getting that kind information.

There are also complaints from students that the tests cover matters they have not been taught about. This, of course, is a demand that teachers "teach to the test."

Many educators oppose this.

There also are concerns that the tests are supposed to be taken on a computer. Some schools are not really equipped to do this, and some students have not had much experience with computers and will be at a disadvantage.

Some also are wondering if these new tests are valid. We have achievement tests that have been used for 75 years. We know a lot about them and what their results mean. Is PARCC really better?

This in turn raises the question of what the purpose of the tests really is. Is the focus simply on total scores and the percentage of students who pass the test?

Will the Common Core lead to students learning more – or just learning how to take tests better?

The Ohio Legislature has five weeks to wrestle with this problem and figure out what to do. I want to offer them four words of advice — testing is not teaching.

Guido H. Stempel III is a distinguished professor emeritus of journalism at Ohio University. Professor Stempel has a Ph.D. in mass communication from the University of Wisconsin and a master's in journalism from Indiana University. He has been on the Ohio University faculty since 1965 and served as director and graduate chairman of the journalism school, director of the Bush Research Endowment, and director of the Scripps Survey Research Center. He is a columnist for The Athens Messenger and The Highland County Press.