Court compels state to release skills test

OHIO — The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in April that student proficiencytests and school administered occupational skills tests are subject to statepublic disclosure laws.

In a 4-3 decision, the court ruled that under Ohio’s Public Records Act,the state must release parts of the 12th Grade Ohio Proficiency Test andthe Ohio Vocational Competency Assessment a year after they are administered.

“It is paramount that such tests are subjected to the keen eye ofthe public to ensure that the state does not stray from its duty to properlyeducate Ohio’s citizenry,” Justice Frank E. Sweeney wrote in the majorityopinion in State ex rel. Rea v. Ohio Department of Education, 81Ohio St3d 527 (1998), issued April 29.

Sweeney, joined in the majority by Justices Andrew Douglas, Alice RobieResnick and Paul E. Pfeifer, wrote that the public could request unmarkedassessment booklets, unmarked test instructions and questions, and the scoringmechanism for both tests.

“The instruments that evaluate students and determine their capabilitiesshould not be enshrouded in a cloak of secrecy, isolated from the scrutinyand oversight of the general public, concerned parents and students themselves,”Sweeney wrote in the majority opinion.

The case was brought to the state’s attention by Hollie Rea, a high schoolsenior in 1995, who had taken both tests. When she asked to view the exams,the Ohio Department of Education asked her to sign a non-disclosure statement.The court ruled that Rea did not need to sign such a statement.