Screen shot 2013-03-21 at 1.07.40 PMUAHS offers incentive for students taking the OGTs for the first time

By Miriam Alghothani

“And you may now begin,” the teacher’s voice echoed through the silent room of test-takers as she wrote the starting time on the board.

While other students enjoyed a late start to school during the Ohio Graduation Test (OGT) week of March 11-15, sophomores were tested in the five subject areas of the required standardized tests.

Motivating students to try their best, the UAHS administration again offered an incentive for students who took the OGT for the first time. Sophomores who scored in the two top categories of advanced or accelerated are eligible to test out of their final exam of the tested subject. Principal Emilie Greenwald said the incentive proved necessary to make the tests more significant to students.

“[The administration] realized that students [understand] that this test is not necessarily challenging, so for some students there needed to be an incentive to make it more important,” she said.

Greenwald also said that the incentive would motivate students to perform their best on the OGTs.

Even without the exam exemption incentive, UA students still score well. According to the Ohio Department of Education 2010-2011 Report Card, when the adminstration offered Chipotle gift certificates, the percentage of UA students at or above the proficiency level for the OGT tests was approximately 14 percent higher than the state of Ohio average. During the 2010-2011 school year, 81.7 percent of all sophomores scored in advanced or accelerated categories, while during the 2011-2012 year, the first year the exam exemption incentive was offered, 83.9 percent of all sophomores scored in the top two categories.

Still, sophomores, including Victoria Van Benschoten, view the encouragement as an extra reward.

“Without the incentive, I would have still been motivated to do well [on the OGT] but the incentive is like icing on the cake,” Van Benschoten said.

Sophomore Christopher Russell shares a similar sentiment as Van Benschoten.

Russell sees the incentive as an easy way to exempt final exams.

“The exams will probably be harder than the OGT tests, so you might as well try to the best of your ability on the OGTs. That way you can exempt some final exams,” Russell said.

The incentive is meant to motivate students, but sophomore Katelin Highman sees it used in a different way.

“Upper Arlington wants to show other schools that it is a good school,” Highman said. “So it uses an incentive to make students perform better on the tests.”

Agreeing with Highman, junior Elizabeth Files sees the incentive used as a ploy to enhance the school image.

“The OGT incentive is used for the school’s benefit,” Files said.

Yet, like Van Benschoten and Russell, Files enjoyed testing out of final exams.

“Getting to exempt some exams was good for students, even if [the incentive] was used for the school’s advantage,” Files said.

History teacher Mark Boesch said that the incentive benefited both students and the school.

“This particular incentive is a win-win for both the student and the district. The students can be exempted from their exam and the district scores better on the state report card when students score high on the OGT,” Boesch said.

The exam exemption incentive did prove effective, as Greenwald said that UAHS saw a rise in scores.

“Last year, there was a jump in our scores. Other school districts had a drop,” Greenwald said.

With or without incentives, UAHS has been designated excellent by the Ohio Department of Education for the past five years.