by Olivia Miltner, ’13

Clearly, free Chipotle burritos were not enough of a bribe to get the class of 2013 to do as well on last year’s OGT as hoped.

According to the Ohio Department of Education, Upper Arlington High School ranked fourth out of all Franklin County public schools, behind Grandview Heights, Bexley and New Albany-Plain Local. This was a disappointment, since we were challenged to score even higher than the previous year’s class, which received the highest spot among the same schools.

The kicker? According to the ODE, the class of 2012 had an 89.9 percent passing rate, whereas 90.5 percent of my junior class passed. We did improve, the only problem was that the three schools listed above improved more than Upper Arlington, reaching into the 92nd percentile.

So, if I were Kip Greenhill, I would be asking, “What do these teenagers want more than food?”

The answer: Less work.

Instead of appealing to our innate tendency to fill ourselves with carbs and calories, he decided to give this year’s sophomores the opportunity to exempt themselves from final exams, provided that they score in the top 10 percent in the corresponding section of the OGT.

So, if a student ranks in the 95th percentile in the mathematics part of the test, they won’t have to take their math final exam, and instead will have their course grade calculated only with their quarter grades.

Of course, when I first heard this, I was jealous. I said to myself, “This isn’t fair!”

But after I started thinking about it, I realized that my negative attitude was completely irrational. Of course I wish we had that opportunity but, hey, life isn’t fair. And if this is enough encouragement to motivate the 10th graders to meet these high expectations on their OGTs, then that benefits everyone in the school, not just the class of 2014.

The OGTs were designed in response to the No Child Left Behind Act passed in 2001. According to the Legislative Service Commission, the tests became one way to determine how well a school is performing, and whether or not they meet federal education requirements set by the act. This is one of the reasons why there is such pressure on students to perform well on these tests. The OGTs are also the only determining factor in ranking high schools in the area. Other statistics that show a school’s progress, like SAT or ACT scores and graduation rates, are not taken into consideration.

Because there are such important consequences riding on the results of the OGTs, they put pressure on teachers to educate students first and foremost on what will show up on the tests. This is the ‘teach to test’ approach, and instead of students learning core aspects of education, it limits the range of the school’s curriculum.

Fortunately, Ohio’s state legislature passed an education reform bill in 2009 that calls for the replacement of the OGT with other graduation requirements. Although there is no set timeline, these will include a nationally standardized assessment, a series of end-of-course exams and a senior project.

However, at the present time, I can’t help but think about the state of our education. We shouldn’t have to be bribed to try our best on a test. While burritos or no exams may motivate students in the short-term, these incentives make us lose our innate love for learning, and teach us that hard work only happens with the prospect of rewards.