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Flexibility in education

In an unusual show of solidarity, Ohio lawmakers have done something important for the state’s students and teachers, who are still on shaky ground after more than a year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students will now have extra time to take state-mandated tests; and juniors and seniors can substitute final course grades for results from end-of-course tests taken this school year to graduate.

“I support any flexibility we can give to schools as we continue to address the pandemic’s impact on the students and families they serve,” Sen. Teresa Fedor, D-Dist. 11, said.

At this point, flexibility certainly is important. Teachers and students have a lot of time to make up for, and preparing for specific tests may not be the best way to do that.

It remains unsettling, though, that the one test for which schools received an exemption, rather than flexibility in scheduling, was the normally required American history exam. While that particular subject may not require that students learn to perform operations and procedures such as calculations or constructing proper sentences, it still has plenty of important lessons to impart.

Teachers will of course continue to do a thorough job of making sure our students understand ALL of our nation’s past.

But it seems assessment on that particular matter must wait a year. Meanwhile, state education officials are also preparing to ask for exemptions to some federal accountability measures.

Assuming they receive those exemptions, they won’t have much time to get used to the idea. Barring another crisis, those measures will be back in place again next year.

But right now it is good to know teachers and administrators will have more freedom to take care of their students — both academically and in terms of mental wellbeing. Students have missed out on a lot more than just “book learning.” They need socialization and self-confidence as well. The ability to strike that balance is essential as we work toward our new educational “normal.”

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